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‘My Salvation’

What a great story about Jim Tucker (“My Salvation,” July 2010 AOPA Pilot). We all too often take our ability to “just go flying” for granted.

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What a great story about Jim Tucker (“ My Salvation,” July 2010 AOPA Pilot). We all too often take our ability to “just go flying” for granted. Then we read about someone like Tucker who had all of his hard-earned dreams come true—only to lose them from the completely unforeseeable act of a very disturbed person. Not weather, not a mechanical oversight or flaw, or all those other things we all try to be prepared for should we be so challenged. There is no checklist for what that FedEx crew encountered.

Then came that wonderful moment in the Luscombe: “It was glorious” certainly sums up what had to be an avalanche of emotions. I’m willing to bet, if the truth be told, that Tucker shed some tears of joy on that flight with the rush of regaining his dreams again. He stayed involved in aviation as much as he could, but being able to just walk out, climb in, and go flying is what fulfills our souls. I’m so pleased that he then became able to teach his son to fly, too. Dreams are always best when shared.

Let’s have more of these articles. They certainly make us grateful for what we are privileged to have.

Peter McEvoy
Phoenix, Arizona

I thoroughly enjoyed Dave Hirschman’s interview of Federal Express Flight 705 pilot Jim Tucker, who took a 500,000-pound DC–10, rolled it nearly inverted, exceeded three Gs, and returned it to safe and level flight to fight off a hijack attempt. Certainly Tucker’s skills learned via Navy pilot training highlight the need for all pilots flying Part 121 airline type flying to have at least some basic aerobatic or upset training.

Hirschman’s book, Hijacked: The Real Story of the Heroes of Flight 705, is factual and complete and a must-read of how Capt. Dave Sanders, First Officer Tucker, and Flight Engineer Andy Peterson worked as team to fight off a hijacker and return their DC–10 for a challenging and safe landing.

Capt. Alex Duron, AOPA 1412865
Germantown, Tennessee

Thanks for the update article on the FedEx DC–10 captain and the hijack attempt. Any pilot wondered what they would have done under similar circumstances and all remember this event, which does not seem like that long ago. Please pass on to Jim Tucker how much we all are pulling for his continued success.

Bill Brown, AOPA 647209
Seneca, South Carolina

10 mistakes JKF Jr. made

For me, John F. Kennedy Jr.’s accident was rather personal (“ 10 Mistakes JFK Jr. Made,” July 2010 AOPA Pilot). Having had a vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard I flew the trip from the New York area many, many times...rarely at night, and in mostly VFR conditions.

My route always followed the coastline and made the crossing to the Vineyard to minimize over-water distance in my single-engine airplane. I can’t ever remember approaching the island from the direction that Kennedy did, even though it might save five minutes in the hour flight. In my mind, spatial disorientation was a factor. Nighttime haze or fog covering the island is common.

What bothered me about the flight was why, approaching the island under these conditions, he was not using the autopilot. It would have likely saved their lives.

David Pyle, AOPA 391903
Houston, Texas

I resent Douglas Lonnstrom’s speculative article about John F. Kennedy Jr. in your July issue. John and I became friends when my magazine, Flying, and his, George, were owned by the same publishing company. John took his flying seriously and it is impossible to know what went wrong.

What really burns me up is that this type of general aviation accident is common. There are unexplained loss-of-control accidents all of the time and we can never know for sure what caused them. Continued study of loss-of-control fatal accidents is warranted and valuable.

Piling on to John’s memory for selfish reasons is distasteful at best, although I find that to be too kind of a word for this type of writing.

J. Mac McClellan
Norwalk, Connecticut
J. Mac McClellan is the former editor in chief of
Flying magazine.

Lawn Chair Larry’s legacy

While reading Alton K Marsh’s recent article, “ Pilot Briefing: Lawn Chair Larry’s Legacy” (July 2010 AOPA Pilot), I was reminded of a recent encounter with balloons. During one of my routine IFR flights home to Hilton Head, South Carolina, from Northern Virginia, I was cruising at 4,000 feet and had just been handed off to Florence approach when suddenly something caught my eye. Before I could blink, a group of balloons passed directly below my wing. I contacted ATC immediately and they asked for a description, size, and number of balloons; of course they had my location.

One of the three methods described [in the article] to facilitate a descent in a balloon craft is to release one or more balloons. I wonder if the FAA has taken into consideration what the potential damage might be to an airplane if it happens to strike a balloon at, say, 150 knots?

Gary L. Bolus, AOPA 4056041
Okatie, South Carolina

While I admire Jonathon Trappe’s dedication to getting airborne, I cringed when I read about his method of controlling altitude by releasing balloons. Free balloons can pose a significant hazard to jet aircraft. On a recent departure from San Jose, climbing through 19,000 feet, a cluster of balloons passed very close by our MD–11. Although such a collision is unlikely to cause structural damage, sucking in large balloons or a cluster of balloons could certainly damage jet engines. I would hope that Trappe could come up with a system of releasing gas rather than releasing his balloons. Such a system would be safer and more cost effective for everyone concerned.

Capt. Mark W. Danielson
Thornton, Colorado

Time to buy

I was so excited when AOPA Pilot said, “ Time to Buy: Seizing the Day” (July 2010). I didn’t have any real expectations, but it did capture my imagination. That is, at least, until I started to read the incredibly obvious—ugh, I closed the magazine in disgust. I make about $55K a year. If it wasn’t for my wife working my aviation days would be all but over. We own a half-partnership in an older Mooney worth about $50,000 to $60,000. My partner makes about the same as I do. It is all we can afford.

I love being a member in good standing with AOPA and I enjoy AOPA Pilot.  However, I have a major complaint. I almost never see any empathy for those of us that make less than $100,000 per year, yet I am willing to bet we make up a much larger proportion of aviation than you think. Every aspect of aviation seems to be geared to the very wealthy. With super-inflated pricing as it is, the aviation world is nuts. Everything we purchase costs 10 times as much as it could or should be. The very wealthy? Well, they are so out of touch with the reality of cost of goods and services, or they could just care less and just pay the price without blinking an eye. As for the rest of us, well, we just dream about that new glass panel refit or even owning a simple new Garmin 496. Even that is outrageously priced in comparison to any land-based GPS.

Now, I am not asking you to solve the problem, but you could cater a little bit to us “little people.” I am willing to bet I am not the only one out here struggling along to continue the joy and privilege of flight. The cream of the aviators may be where the big bucks lay; however, we, the milk of the sky, are where the majority of us live and work today. I am willing to also bet we have more purchasing power.

Come on, give us a break already. Give us something to read. Give us something to reach for, give us some ray of hope in the super-inflated world of aviation!

Just a normal pilot
Ric Swaningson, AOPA 5362596
Palmyra, Wisconsin


In “ Panel with a Punch” (August AOPA Pilot), Dynon Chief Operating Officer Nick Bogner’s name was misspelled. AOPA Pilot regrets the error.

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