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Rotten airRotten air

The article “Technique: Rotten Air,” in the October 2009 issue of AOPA Pilot, is the best—in my judgment—descriptive material I have read in a long time. Al Marsh’s descriptive handling of crab versus forward slip, together with the adjustments to power, pattern, and descent rates, are right on the money.

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We welcome your comments. Address letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to [email protected]. Please include your full name, address, and AOPA number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.

The article “Technique: Rotten Air,” in the October 2009 issue of AOPA Pilot, is the best—in my judgment—descriptive material I have read in a long time. Al Marsh’s descriptive handling of crab versus forward slip, together with the adjustments to power, pattern, and descent rates, are right on the money. Having soloed in 1951 in a taildragger Cessna 140 and with an outstanding instructor, I formulated techniques that served me well for my entire career. Over the period of 52 years (1951 to 2003), I had the pleasure of flying the full range of light aircraft, including the Cessna single series from 140 to 195. Throw in Beech and Piper; I don’t think I missed any of them, including all of the twins.

From 1956 on, my professional career included Douglas DC–4s, DC–7s, and Boeing Stratocruisers with the airlines before transitioning to corporate in 1963. I flew and enjoyed the full range of Gulfstreams from the Gulfstream I to the III and didn’t miss many of their contemporaries (JetStar, Falcon, Citation, Lear 35s, and de Havilland/Hawker).

Before this sounds like a self-generated testimonial, let me add that the techniques described in the article, and which I learned in a Cessna 140, served me well for my entire career. Memorable was a nighttime landing at the Hayward, California, airport, in the middle of a weather front, at about 11 p.m. I was flying a Stinson Station Wagon. The only lit runway was 10R and as luck would have it, a severe right crosswind. Attempting to land and maintain directional control was beyond the aerodynamic abilities of the aircraft. I just simply couldn’t apply upwind wing and rudder combination to hold it on centerline. The alternative, which I used, was to pull up and have a very bouncy circle around to Runway 22, which, of course, luck being what it was, was unlit, but I managed to get it down.

Trevor C. Spencer, AOPA 86452
Cottonwood, California

To the article about “Rotten Air,” I thought I would add my two cents’ worth. When I had approximately 300 hours, I was in a Piper Cherokee Six on long final into Lancaster, California, with a 30-knot headwind. Up to this time, I had only heard about turbulence. I was going to grease it in and impress my passengers. At 200 agl, the runway fixed in my windshield became blue sky and the desert floor was coming up fast. Luckily, I was able to power my way to an arrival. After that, I was always guilty of being high and fast on windy days during the landing.

Years later, I was in a King Air at Meigs Field in Chicago to take some people to Battle Creek, Michigan. The wind was so gusty on the ground that it pulled the control locks loose. The trip to Battle Creek was absolutely horrible. During deplaning, one passenger—a rabbi—said, “That was quite a flight! Three of the passengers changed their faith en route!”

John Bejot, AOPA 555332
Ainsworth, Nebraska

I’ve got a bone to pick. On the October 2009 cover the headline “A Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On: Manhandling Turbulence” gave me the impression (mistakenly) that an article on, well, turbulence was on the inside pages of the magazine. Furthermore, on page 89 the big bold font proclaimed “Rotten Air.” However, the article was about the author’s one-day attempts at crosswind landings—not tips on handing turbulence. And, we all know that even though the two may go hand in hand, each is an animal with different stripes! Sure, turbulence in the headlines is probably a lot more sexy than ho-hum crosswind landing stories, but headlines should be concise in describing the story behind the headline. I know, I’m being picky.

Scott Adams, AOPA 4944680
Bodega Bay, California

Open door policy

I really appreciated the article “Proficient Pilot: Open Door Policy” in the October issue. We have lost too many pilots over that simple issue. People don’t die because the door came open. Far too many have lost their lives trying to close one in flight. Never forget that your first job is to fly the airplane. I wrote my own open door policy following the tragic and senseless loss of a pilot and airplane over Phoenix during the late 1980s. But like so many rules and plans that we develop and practice, I never thought I would actually use it.

My opportunity came about four years ago departing Springfield, Illinois, on the last leg of a trip home from Florida. Contrary to the article, my door didn’t pop on the runway, but shortly after entering IMC. It was a very loud bang, but wasn’t immediately clear what had happened. Nothing showed up on the panel, so we continued the climb to a safe altitude in VMC where we could diagnose the problem. The Piper Arrow has double latches, and the bottom latch had opened. The top latch was securely fastened leaving about a half-inch gap at the bottom rear of the door (which did suck out an empty plastic bag). We were well downrange by this point, and there was no immediate threat to the safety of the flight, so I decided to continue to our destination.

Two lessons learned from this flight: First, an Arrow with the door open tends to establish a gentle but annoying Dutch roll made worse if you use the autopilot. Second, when you make PIC decisions about the safety of the flight, you need to communicate those to your passengers. I knew that nobody was going to get sucked out of the half-inch gap, but my wife wasn’t so sure about that.

Dave K. Purscell, AOPA 889524
Owatonna, Minnesota

One pilot’s influence

I just read “Waypoints: One Pilot’s Influence” and think Tom Haines hit the nail on the head. One of the thoughts I’ve had over the campaign to reinvigorate GA is that I felt it missed the mark...until now. Much of the GA Serves America campaign, in the early days at least, seemed to focus on those of us who are already in GA. This was like preaching to the choir. What was needed was to push the message out to those in the general public, not in GA. Somehow we need to counter the bad publicity created by the idiots of the “Big 3” automakers earlier this year, and the obviously biased articles such as the recent one in USA Today. Having famous and respected figures such as Harrison Ford take such a public stand helps the cause considerably as it grabs the public’s attention and makes them take notice: That’s what’s needed more than anything else. You and I could go on film and do the same, but I don’t think it would have quite the same impact. However, most people don’t even know what GA is, let alone understand its importance. A campaign with a string of faces in a rapid-fire manner, stating something such as “I am general aviation” might help. Obviously if doctors and other respected professions were the focus, that might help sway public opinion. Telling pilots how great and important GA is won’t do too much. Telling the rest of our population and their politicians might.

Simon Holden AOPA 6142612
Saratoga, California

The ultimate safety net

Your article is an excellent explanation of aircraft insurance ( “The Ultimate Safety Net,” October 2009 AOPA Pilot). In the discussion of smooth versus sub-limited policies you give an example of how a $1 million smooth limit would “theoretically” be shared by two passengers equally. This isn’t so. The policy limit could be used up entirely by the first injured party to perfect a claim. The limit is available entirely to settle any and all claims. Once used up, the limit is gone forever. Another example involves the loan of an aircraft to another pilot who injures someone on the ground. You say, “The coverage will be split between [the aircraft owner and the accident pilot].” This again isn’t entirely true. There are circumstances wherein a claim first perfected against the offending pilot in command could entirely erode the limits, leaving nothing for the aircraft owner. Remember also that once the limit has been paid out, the insurer’s duty to defend also evaporates. Frankly, the cost of defense can and often does outstrip indemnity payments from a lawsuit.

You say that should an engine quit, forcing an off-field landing that goes badly, the insurer would pay for hull damage but not for damage to the engine because it failed in flight. That may be what the insurer tries to do, but don’t let him get away with that position.

The failure of a component in flight isn’t covered, but those elements of the engine that were damaged as a result of the forced landing would be covered. Let’s say that the engine failed because a fuel line connection failed, thereby starving the engine of fuel. The pilot lands in a field and hits a gopher hole. The prop digs in and ruins the shaft and damages pistons. The pistons and shaft are covered. Fuel starvation didn’t damage those—the off-field landing did. The insurer who says otherwise is being disingenuous.

Anthony J. Ian, AOPA 3519493
New York, New York

Faraway place

I very much enjoyed the article about flying to Nantucket ( Postcards: Faraway Place,” October 2009 AOPA Pilot). I’ve been to just about every $100 hamburger joint around, but lately my wife and I are enjoying the $500 weekend getaways. We recently spent an enjoyable weekend in Niagara Falls, but are looking for more great ideas for a weekend escape.

Josh Johnson, AOPA 4236005
Decatur, Indiana

It’s free…really

Just read “Frugal Flier: It’s Free…Really” (October 2009 AOPA Pilot ). I was just lamenting the high cost of subscription renewal for my approach plates. I had considered canceling my subscription and downloading relevant plates just before a trip, but I felt uneasy about not having all of the current plates onboard. Pdfplates.com solved the problem. I considered getting a Kindle, but the plates are quite readable on my iPhone (not so much on a Blackberry). The GoodReader App for the iPhone is quite easy to use. Within minutes of reading the article, I had U.S. East plates on my MacBook and iPhone. I also use Foreflight and AOPA’s Airport Directory on the iPhone. Amazing technology. I love it.

Dean Hawthorne, AOPA 492370
Richmond, Virginia

We welcome your comments. Address letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to [email protected]. Please include your full name, address, and AOPA number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.

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