I thoroughly enjoyed Alton K. Marsh's story in the September issue of AOPA Pilot magazine on the reappearance of the timeless 7AC Champ (" The Champ is Back"). Did I miss it or was there no reference in the story to Bellanca's 7ACA Champ that came out in the early 1970s? I owned one for a while in Alaska and liked it fairly well. It was pure wood-spar Champ through and through except that it had a Citabria windshield and gear legs, and a really ugly, lumpy cowling that covered a tiny two-cylinder Franklin engine of some 60 horsepower. It wasn't very fast and had no electrical system, but it flew, well, like a champ. The only problems I had with it—before it was squashed by a Cessna 180 during a horrific windstorm that wrecked most of the airport where it lived—were with the engine and two dead stick landings that the airplane handled with exceptional aplomb. I paid just more than $6,000 for it in 1980 and thought I'd paid too much. The thought of paying $100,000 for one today boggles my mind.
I learned to fly in the 1960s. I soloed in a 7AC and flew a variety of Aeroncas. They all were great airplanes, inexpensive and fun to fly. I flew them all over the East Coast, and most times there were two persons aboard as well as luggage. Never once did I have to leave off fuel to keep the airplanes under gross. Imagine my surprise when the article states, "The payload with full fuel is the aircraft's biggest drawback." The article blames the lack of useful load on "loading up with options." I thought perhaps the basic airplane had gained some pounds. The old 7EC Champ was 890 pounds empty so there are an extra 60 pounds in the new Champ, probably 12-G FAA- spec seats and other useful stuff. However, the real difference is the old 7EC was 1,450 pounds max gross and the new Champ is only 1,320 pounds. One-hundred-thirty pounds have disappeared down the bureaucratic rat hole. The total weight penalty is 190 pounds! This made a fun-plane into an un-plane and sent the Champ spinning to the canvas.
I enjoyed the article on best and worst landings (" Bragging Rights," September Pilot). It seems most pilots—and passengers for that matter—regard a great landing as being a feather-smooth greaser, regardless of conditions. The old salts at my airline have often said, on a windy day of biting crosswinds, a firm arrival on centerline is a great landing. In wet conditions, a firm landing is desirable to break the plane of water and increase braking action. Other old salts have added over the years: "You hope luck kicks in when you run out of skill," and "A good landing is when you can walk away from it. A great landing is when you can use the airplane again!"
I noted an error in " Airframe & Powerplant: Ropes, Knots, and Spoilers" (September Pilot). The photograph labeled "bowline knot" appears to be a Figure-8 knot; there is no loop in the line. The Figure 8 knot is used as a "stopper" knot that prevents a line from running through a block, necessitating rethreading the line through the block. An old sailor taught me an easy way to tie a bowline. First tie a slipknot about a foot from the end of the line. Pass the end of the line through the eye or shackle you are securing to, then through the loop in the slipknot. Pull on the line as if releasing the slipknot and it will "invert" to make a bowline.
I find that many pilots are also sailors and being one myself, I can attest that what's shown as a bowline is incorrect. The photos depicting most of the knots are incorrect and the small knot labeled "reef knot" actually appears to be some convoluted sequence for the bowline pictures. The bowline is great to know because it is an easy knot that can be done with one hand and can be undone when under tension. However, it cannot take up slack and therefore another knot is required, usually at the other end, to do this. A trucker's hitch, or variation, is generally preferred for tying anything down. The hurricane knot shown appears to be a sequence of rolling hitches although inconsistently executed. Additionally, a reef knot is not a good knot to use since it slips, it comes undone, it jams, and it is all too easy to tie a granny instead, which behaves even less. The reef knot also tightens under load and cannot be untied until its tension is relieved. A better knot would be the sheet bend with the added benefit that it can tie ropes of different sizes.
Great job on the V-tail jet article (" Waypoints: The Return of the V-Tail," September Pilot). I wholeheartedly endorse the sport of skewering skeptics and nailing naysayers with smashing success stories like this. I'm also a huge fan of the Cirrus boys up in Duluth, and truth be known, their airplane is one of the reasons I started my company—to create something to pay for my flying habit, whenever and wherever the urge strikes (business-related, of course) Keep slaying the dragons of gloom and doom.
I detected a bit of smugness regarding "those who cling to the Bonanza's V-tail reputation." Mike Van Staagen assures us that "engineers have learned a thing or two about aerodynamics and structures in the past 60 years." That may be, but it does seem ironic that he cites the F-18 as a successful, modern example of a high performance V-tail. I'm pretty certain the F-18 Hornet is a twin tail and the F-117 Stealth Fighter is a V-tail, which earned itself a nickname: The Woblin Goblin. I have a healthy skepticism of aircraft that shed their tails and the engineers who designed them. Transferring the blame to pilots who "overstress the tail structure" is a weak rationalization. The same "slippery" straight-tail Bonanzas are flying just fine without the benefit of "simple strengthening brackets."
You impinge the V-tail arrangement of the early Bonanzas. In fact, it was the early production years that are the most structurally sound of the entire V-tail run. Walter Beech and a team of engineers designed the first model 35 as a lightweight, efficient, four-place aircraft. Beginning with serial number 2681 in 1951 things began to go downhill. The V-tail chord was increased dramatically forward of the tail spar, and most important, the structural truss originally designed in was removed from the bulkhead! From 1946 through 1950 for the first five years of production, the V-tail was very robust, and one of the strongest parts of the airframe. This was because the idea of a two-surface tail was revolutionary, and they overbuilt it to take the added stresses of both elevator and rudder forces.
Beginning in 1957 with the H35 model, gross weight was up to 2,900 pounds from the svelte 2,550 of the original. Horsepower was up from 185 to 240, a 30-percent increase! Soon, the fuselage was stretched, and weights continued to increase up to 3,400 pounds. Cruise speeds which started at 148 knots, were up to 200 knots. The effect of all this was that the structures that were built for the C35 and later models finally had reached their limits. It's actually the middle and later models that are the subject of the tail cuff airworthiness directive, and suffered from the aero elastic deformation in flight that caused the break-ups. The only modern military airplane that is a true V-tail is the F-117A, built from 1982 through 1990.
I wanted to send condolences (" Proficient Pilot: So Long, Hal," September Pilot) to Barry Schiff. I know that he and Hal Fishman were friends and was saddened when I heard of his passing. Mr. Schiff did a fine job conveying the level of his friendship and expressing the urgency for others to get tested [for colon cancer].
Regarding the letter in your September issue reacting to the July " Safety Pilot: What Was He Thinking?" I find it difficult to understand how anyone could attribute this accident to the unavailability of training necessary to successfully roll a Baron with four passengers. It's not fear of lawsuits—it's professional responsibility, respect for safety, and good judgment. The pilot in this case showed none of these qualities and I agree with Bruce Landsberg's response 100 percent. This "accident" was inexcusable.
I wanted to congratulate you on the best "Pilots" profile I have seen to date (" Pilots: Summer Williams," September Pilot). It's nice to hear about such a lovely pilot in our ranks.
I really never expected our magazine to take on this "look." I'm sure that Ms. Williams is intelligent, and likely a very fine person, with some great, loving, and proud parents, but I think you forgot to mention another rating she appears to possess. Come on now, two pictures from slightly below the bust line? Is this the message that AOPA really wants to send? Obviously she's quite attractive, but please, let's get back to what we're supposed to be about.
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