When Senior Editor Alton Marsh went looking for a rancher who uses aircraft in his work and life, he checked with regular followers of AOPA Online. One of the more prominent contributors to the forums is known as “PeerlessJohn.” Those who talk with John Saubak nearly every day will get the chance not only to read about him (see “ General Aviation Serves America: Cowboy Cadillac”), but to hear him speak on a video that accompanies the article. As for the pen name Saubak uses, it doesn’t mean that he feels he has no peers. Saubak, as Marsh and chief photographer Mike Fizer discovered, lives 20 miles from the small community of Peerless, Montana. As Montana distances go, that’s almost as good as being in the city limits.
“Sometimes lousy is good,” says Editor in Chief Tom Haines. “When Piper made the Meridian single-engine turboprop available to us to fly, we had hoped to take it on some regional trips to get a sense of how useful it is and to really put the new Garmin G1000 panel to the test” (see “ Turbine Pilot: New Magic”). Instead, unrelenting rain and low weather conditions prevailed, keeping the AOPA Pilot staff close to home. However, the lousy weather gave Haines the chance to fly multiple approaches and en route phases in actual weather. “What a good way to learn about an airplane,” he says. “Not surprisingly, the GFC 700 autopilot flies the airplane smoother than your Buick cruises down the interstate. The well-thought-out panel makes life easy for the pilot.”
Flying around thunderstorms is an acquired skill and not something that most pilots learn from books or flight schools. AOPA Air Safety Foundation President Bruce Landsberg looks at the storm that claimed a Piper Twin Comanche in “ Safety Pilot Landmark Accidents: Too Close for Comfort.” “Experienced pilots, such as the one flying his Twin Comanche, must guard against being lured into a bad situation by weather datalink and ATC assistance,” says Landsberg. This month’s Landmark Accident shows how a seemingly reasonable situation can turn ugly in literally a few minutes. “I have great respect for the big clouds with sparks in them and have learned that keeping a safe distance is the only way to avoid a nasty encounter. It’s more than just avionics,” says Landsberg.
ICON Aircraft founder Kirk Hawkins has studied the same aviation data and business trends as other aircraft manufacturers. But he’s reached a diametrically opposite conclusion—there’s a huge, pent-up demand for the romance and adventure of flight (Hawkins said) that the aviation industry has ignored to its detriment, and the road to salvation runs through the often overlooked and sometimes maligned light sport aircraft category. Senior Editor Dave Hirschman learns, “Hawkins has an impeccable academic and aviation pedigree, and the self-assurance to go strongly against the grain. Everything he’s done from ICON’s design and marketing is nontraditional, and the former fighter pilot is willing, even anxious, to stake his young company’s future on his unshakable belief that he’s right,” says Hirschman (see “ Starting a Revolution”).