Alton Marsh sold me an aircraft (“ Flying the High Country,” April AOPA Pilot). When I saw that beautiful American Champion High Country on the cover, I turned immediately to his article.
I was so impressed with the story, photos, and the aircraft that I zipped over to Sidney, Nebraska, for a demo flight. I plunked my money down on Ed Nelson’s desk. Mine will be blue with silver trim. I can hardly wait.
I am not interested in instrument flying any more, nor is my wife, Deborah. We want a reasonably fuel-efficient VFR airplane to fly the great American West on sunny days. We originally thought about a Cessna 185, but that big engine may be more than we need. Then we thought about a Super Cub. I was noodling on the Super Cub idea when I saw the article. Bingo. I spent a little more money, got a new airplane, not one that is 30 years old.
I am excited. The High Country will be just perfect. I used to fly in and out of Jack Greiner’s antique field in a Stearman. He was heavy into Wacos then, always had two or three that he was restoring, fixing up, and selling. People like Jack, and Al Marsh and Ed Nelson, are part of what makes aviation fun. Great article, but tell Al that it’s Sidney, not Sydney, which is in Australia.
Steven Coonts is the author of The Cannibal Queen and Flight of the Intruder and a contributor to this magazine.
The High Country Citabria Explorer is a most impressive aircraft. One concern with piloting aircraft such as this, in the lower cruise speed category (less than 120 KTAS), is the midair potential with other small-atmospheric aircraft traveling at much higher speeds such as the RV-6, Comanche 260, and Bonanza.
Undoubtedly the best option to be seen is to install a strobe light system, but I’ve got some other options to inexpensively enhance your personal visibility: Remove the spinner paint and polish to a chrome-like finish; add some polished aluminum hubcaps; replace the red lens with a clear lens over your anti-collision light, and put in a brighter halogen bulb; turn your landing and/or taxi light on. Since I’ve done the polishing enhancements during the past two years with my Cessna 150, other aircraft have been noticeably quicker to find me when pointed out by ATC controllers.
I doubt polished hub caps will allow the High Country Explorer to cruise noticeably faster, but adding those and a polished spinner may just make it appear even appear slicker than it is today. But just in case my polishing techniques aren’t enough, I’ve got a Monroy Aerospace traffic nag in the panel too. Moving that handheld GPS on top of the instrument panel instead of mounting it on the yoke will help get your VFR eyes back up where they belong.
The “locals” at Fort Collins-Loveland (FNL) have not and do not shorten the name to “Fort Love,” as was stated in the story on the High Country. Only the few incompetents have done so. Unfortunately some pilots have done this for the last couple of years and it is a major problem to the transient pilot.
In this part of the world we have many names that begin “Fort” something or other. So where is that place called “Fort Love”? Doesn’t matter, ignore it because we get plenty of long-range unicom reception and it is only FNL that I am listening for.
Our airport name is a mess and I wish we had an official name that was shorter, but we don’t. The normal is to use the city name in lieu of the ego name. For instance, I hear only “Longmont” instead of “Vance Brand,” and I have never heard “Rick Husband” when going into Amarillo. So it would be sloppy, but acceptable to call FNL as either Loveland or Fort Collins. But never “Fort Love.”
For close to 10 years, we’ve flown our Beech 33A on an IFR flight plan virtually every weekend from Scottsdale to Las Vegas, and were apprehensive prior to “Super Sunday’s” trip, anticipating possible huge delays and reroutes (“ America’s Airports: Super Sunday,” April AOPA Pilot). As a local morning radio personality in Phoenix, I was broadcasting my Friday morning radio show and had heard that those tournament golf pros who didn’t make the cut would depart Scottsdale Friday morning as well.
Several months before, I’d received a letter from airport administrators to all based aircraft, preparing for Super Sunday, saying based airplanes might want to relocate their airplanes during that week, since the runway might not be accessible behind expected corporate jets on ramps and taxiways. But if you had travel plans, give them dates and times, and they’d do their best.
Did they ever! Non-moving GA airplanes were parked against the west perimeter fences to make room for transient jets, but we had a clear and easy path to the departure runway, followed by a rare and almost immediate IFR takeoff clearance. On the return trip, Las Vegas departure, Los Angeles Center, and Albuquerque Center all warned of possible delays and reroutes, but we were given every possible ATC shortcut, were cleared to land farther out than usual, and actually flew one of our noticeably quickest return trips of several hundred we’ve flown. Scottsdale tower told me there were more than 300 additional jets parked at the airport. (I did notice that even Super Bowl attendee John Travolta landed his Gulfstream jet elsewhere, at Goodyear, Arizona.)
I just finished reading “ Waypoints: After the Storm” (April AOPA Pilot) about thunderstorm encounters. I hope everyone who reads the magazine pays close attention to this article—it contains a lot of very good advice. I’ve been flying since 1968. During all those years and almost 14,000 hours, I managed to avoid thunderstorms except for once in a T-38 in 1980. A fellow pilot and I were flying from Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, to Little Rock AFB. We were cruising in high cirrus at flight level 370. The T-38 only had a UHF radio for communications and no weather radar, so we had to rely on ATC for weather avoidance, with an occasional call to an Air Force weather station. We could hear Houston Center talking to air carriers about convective activity, but there were no reports of it in our area. We called Eglin AFB for a weather update and were told that tops along our route were at FL250, well below us.
Houston gave us a frequency change to Memphis Center and we started getting hammered with heavy rain and turbulence. We asked for a climb to FL410, thinking we could get above the weather, but it got worse. Our airspeed decreased from 0.90 Mach to less than 200 KIAS in a matter of a couple of minutes. We called Memphis and told the controller that we had to descend immediately to at least FL370 and he cleared us down to FL330. He gave us a 90-degree turn and said we should be out of it within eight miles. He then asked if the previous controller had warned us about the storm, as the majority of the controllers knew that the T-38 had no radar. I told him no one said a word.
As we broke out into the clear, he said we had just flown into a confirmed level-five storm that topped 51,000 feet. I have ever since given anything that even looks like a thunderstorm plenty of space.
Bruce Landsberg does nothing to arm the pilot with a procedure for avoiding what happened to A. Scott Crossfield (“ Safety Pilot Landmark Accidents: Always Another Dawn,” April AOPA Pilot). It further shows that there is no procedure for avoiding an in-flight breakup because of thunderstorms other than not flying IFR. Controllers are totally unreliable and we may as well face it!
Bruce Landsberg replies: I disagree on the value of ATC. With some understanding of how the system works and how to ask questions, ATC can provide excellent guidance to avoid thunderstorms. I’ve flown IFR (in IMC) all over the country in thunderstorm weather and have had good experiences with ATC. Consider that it takes two to have effective communication. The NTSB has found equal fault between ATC and the pilot in command. Like it or not, in about 80 percent of the cases we create our own problems. The PIC carries an awesome responsibility and it’s in everyone’s interest to learn. The ASF online course, the safety advisors, and the seminars provide solid information to pilots on what ATC can and cannot do. Bottom line—the number of IFR thunderstorm-related accidents has dropped significantly since ASF started this educational push, which may be because of any number of factors but I’m less interested in taking credit than in producing results.
There has never been a flight service station next to Anchorage International Airport (“ Dog Days of Alaska,” April AOPA Pilot); however, the National Weather Service operates an aviation forecast weather unit office in the vicinity. AOPA Pilot regrets the error.
We welcome your comments. Address letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to [email protected]. Include your full name, address, and AOPA number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.