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Thanks so much for the beautiful article on Travis and Cindy Nelson and their family (“ GA Serves America: Cowboy Cadillac,” August AOPA Pilot). I have flown over those same areas of Montana for 40 years. The sense of open space is refreshing and spellbinding. The distances between settlements are staggering. I usually ask the question to my passengers, “What do people do down there?”
So I at least know what one family does (plus John Saubak). Articles such as this are a welcome relief from more technical pieces, because they talk about real people in real places and the benefits they gain from their aircraft. Indirectly, you make a believable apologia for general aviation. It is clear from the flavor of Alton Marsh’s article that he enjoyed his visit with the Nelsons and was personally touched by their hospitality. My only regret was that I wasn’t there to enjoy the cookout and the conversation.
—Patrick J. McDonald, AOPA 336670
I just read the article on the ranchers in Montana and their practical use of GA. Back in the 1970s, I spent a summer working out of the small towns along the railroad across Montana and North Dakota. We set up shop about every 150 miles or so for a few weeks at a time and were thus able to get to know many of the locals. When I think back, one of the things that sticks out is the abundance of people who could fly an airplane. Not necessarily licensed pilots, but people who could get in an airplane and fly it. One gentleman had been flying since he was 12 or 13 years old without the benefit of any sort of FAA paperwork. He was well into his 70s. Out on the ranches, kids were taught to fly as routinely as they were taught to drive. I’m sure the roads have improved, but in those days, an airplane was often the only way to get to town after a rain. In the winter, once the snow drifted over the roads, anyone more than a dozen miles from town was marooned without an airplane. GA and Montana—truly a marriage made in heaven.
—Harry Butcher, AOPA 888120
I lived for years at Lake Minchumina, Alaska, where the airplane is the only way in and out, much like taking the truck to town. I have hauled everything from whole frozen pigs and live chicks to puppies, drill rig parts, and fresh hot pizzas for firefighters. I have visited Glasgow, Montana, so it was fun to see the country and people there. Good people. Nice country.
—Phyllis Tate, AOPA 820066
As I read the article “ Starting a Revolution” (August AOPA Pilot), my jaw kept slowly dropping. And I had to ask myself why I had not realized the simple truths stated therein. The perspective is 100-percent on, and I have never heard a more surefire path to revitalize GA.
I started flying for the excitement and novelty. I wanted fun, adventure, and maybe to get upside down. Soon I was smothered with layers of regulation, cost, and lack of time. Until now I am unaware of anyone expressing the heresy that “the sales pitch about transportation/utility of personal business travel is largely false.” I agree for the average piston pilot like myself. Certainly this does not apply to the guy with a flight department and dedicated staff.
There are many people who boat, ski, board, four-wheel, snowmobile, or bungee who would jump at the chance to get into the “ultimate off road machine” if permitted. The professional and semiprofessional pilots will always have a special place in aviation. We can add thousands more, however, who seek merely the fun and sheer joy of flight.
—Joe Stamper, AOPA 1189488
I never thought that in my lifetime I would ever see “heretical comments” like this in—of all publications— AOPA Pilot. This is a historic event of profound proportions. However, unfortunately, it’s most likely just because of an editorial slip-up within AOPA. One should of course be optimistic and hope that this represents a policy rethinking within AOPA, but I do not think this is the case.
I realize of course that you are just parroting what has been expressed by somebody else. However, do realize that by association you are fully responsible for these “heretical comments.”
—Helge Skreppen, AOPA 779552
I want to applaud Kirk Hawkins for brilliantly recognizing what ails general aviation. He says, “The sales pitch about the transportation/utility of personal business travel is largely false.” I own a Mooney Bravo with a friend. We can go very far, very fast, but the truth is we don’t really need to go anywhere, hence the $400 hamburger ($100 won’t cover it).
When I started flying a couple of years ago, I was shocked to learn that the private pilot population has declined by a third since the 1980s. Baby boomers have more free time and more money than their parents did, why aren’t they flying? I visit all these ghost-town airports knowing that it is difficult for municipalities to justify these under-used facilities. People need to know that you can fly just for the heck of it—you don’t need a reason, but it’s got to be affordable.
Hawkins is right about jet skis and snowboarding—“nobody snowboards to work.” It’s about fun. Thankfully some bright people created the LSA category because it is GA’s best hope for a future. We need fun, inexpensive aircraft like the ICON A5 and I wish Mr. Hawkins the very best of success.
—Thom Reilly, AOPA 5822073
Oyster Bay, New York
As a CPA in public practice, I feel compelled to correct both an erroneous statement about my profession and a clear error in tax law contained in your article (“ Buying New Now,” August AOPA Pilot). Please note that Mr. Caldeira’s statement that “many CPAs are afraid to deal with it [bonus depreciation]” is simply not true. The current bonus regime in the Internal Revenue Code is the third time in just this decade that Congress has provided for bonus depreciation on qualifying asset purchases. CPAs have been working with bonus depreciation rules for years. Most well-advised businesses—not just a chosen few having “tax consultants who specialize in putting together financial transactions of this sort”—have timed asset purchases to take advantage of the accelerated writeoff for business assets on aircraft and other asset purchases because their CPAs have discussed bonus depreciation with them.
Your article also states that “for those buying new airplanes, IRS Section 179 expensing rules let owners deduct up to $250,000 worth of aircraft-related expenses in 2009.” Section 179 does not address the writeoff of day-to-day operating expenses (in code speak, day-to-day expenses are deducted under section 162). Section 179 instead allows a taxpayer to deduct the cost of an asset as an expense rather than recover the asset cost as depreciation. Thus 179 expensing is an alternative to bonus depreciation for the cost of a qualifying asset. Additionally, 179 treatment is allowed for qualifying assets whether new or used for 2009.
In the future, please have a trained professional “in the right seat” when you print an article covering another profession’s area of expertise. In return, I promise never to climb into the cockpit of an airplane!
—Mary Anne McElmurray
—Stanley Vandenboss, AOPA 1198707
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Editor’s note: In his story, author Tom Horne states, “It’s vital to find a tax consultant who specializes in aircraft.” The story was reviewed by a tax consultant before publication.
Welcome to the joys of rotary wing flight, Mr. Haines (“ Waypoints: A Grand View of the Deep South,” August AOPA Pilot)! I completed my first solo helicopter flight more than 35 years ago in the Army’s venerable TH–55A. Although I hold commercial tickets and instrument ratings in single- and multiple-engine fixed-wing aircraft as well as rotorcraft, I will always be a chopper pilot at heart. Rotary-wing flight is expensive; not practical; physically taxing; and s-l-o-w. Having said that, nothing in the sky can provide the mission capabilities or the pure enjoyment of rotary-wing flight.
I applaud Haines for his article. I hope to see more in the future as he checks off a rotorcraft rating on his bucket list
—Mike Heaney, AOPA 5469259
Editor’s note: AOPA Pilot and AOPA Online have increased coverage of helicopter industry news, technique, and commentary. See AOPA Online and AOPA’s Hover Power.