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I received my December issue and read Mike Collins’ article on the DC–3 with some interest and I shed a few tears (“ A Birthday to Celebrate,” December 2010 AOPA Pilot). I remember seeing DC–3s very commonly when I was a boy and even had my first airplane ride in one. But the thing that brought tears to my eyes was remembering my father, who was an Army Air Corps and, later, USAF aircraft mechanic. He served in three conflicts—World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. I watched him go off to war twice and both times it was in a C–47. Fortunately, he came back in one piece each time.
Seeing the DC–3 article brought me back to standing on the apron at George Air Force Base as my dad boarded a C–47 and then watching him take off in it to go to Korea. He passed away last year, just short of 90 years old, and it is a never-ending wonder the things that bring his memory back to me.
Jerry Rufener, AOPA 933052
Citrus Heights, California
What a great article about the DC–3’s seventy-fifth. In the early 1960s, as a young man I worked for United at Orlando (Florida) maintenance. I had the opportunity to chat on a number of occasions with an O'Hare Douglas rep named Joe. One day I made the comment that these were really great airplanes and they'd served us all well in both militaty and civilian uses.
On the ramp at Orlando—and you could still walk around back then—the sound of the DC–6s, –7s, and CV–340s with their round engines was a sound to behold. Those sounds in Illinois, as mentioned in the article, must have been really impressive.
Jim Martin, AOPA 494800
Among all of the other things this beautiful airplane has done, it used to be the best choice for skydivers because of its large capacity. Many jumpers are also pilots and we would fly all over the country to attend a jump meet if it had a DC–3. And I remember the awe of going to one of the big boogies and seeing five to eight DC-3s on the line, their owners working on the engines under lights at night while the skydivers kicked back with beverages. A great ship!
Barry Brooks, AOPA 1247844
Am I the only one to write to you expressing the opinion that this Carson number is bogus (“ Technique: Cheap Speed,” December 2010 AOPA Pilot)? I will use the numbers for my turbonormalized Cessna 185. I’ll arbitrarily pick a flight with a cruising segment of 400 nm at 8,000 feet. In my airplane, the absolute minimum fuel to cruise that distance is 27.569 gallons, which can only be accomplished by flying at precisely 99.7 knots, which will complete the 400-nm segment in 240.722 minutes.
Suppose I increase my speed to 115 knots. At this speed I will burn an extra 1.125 gallons of fuel and speed up my trip by 32.026 minutes. In other words I am spending 17.56 cents for each minute I save. (I’m assuming $5/gal). Is this worth it? Suppose I increase my speed even more to 132.2 knots. (This is the mythical magic 1.316 factor computed by Carson.) In that case I will almost double the amount of time saved (59.179 minutes); however, I will burn an extra 4.008 gallons. In other words I’ve now spent 33.86 cents for each minute saved (nearly double the cost per minute at my 115-knot speed).
As I continue to increase my power setting, the cost per minute of time saved continues to increase. This cost increase happens smoothly from the minimum drag speed (99.7 knots) and so it is difficult to point to any particular point as being optimal unless you factor in your particular time and financial constraints.
What about the typical renter pilot who is renting the airplane wet via the Hobbs meter? His minimum cost is to fly the airplane as fast as possible, even if that overheats the engine—leading to a much shorter engine life. The Carson speed has no significance in this situation. The pilot will also be motivated to taxi as fast as possible without making the probability of an accident excessively high, another reason why some of the more intelligent operations shy away from this wet rental model.
Now if you are renting dry, then there will be an optimum speed to fly to minimize cost, but you can’t calculate it the way Carson does. In fact, you would have to know the relative cost of the hourly rental compared with the fuel cost before you could make such a calculation. And what about the typical aircraft owner? My opinion is that the engine wear for the two flights (at 115 knots and 132.2 knots in my example) is actually the same despite the fact that the higher-speed flight saves 27 minutes.
Unless it is just for bragging rights, the pilot doesn’t really care about the speed. He really cares about how much time he can save. If you look at it in terms of how much time you save versus how much you spend to save it, I think you will see that the Carson speed is no magic bullet.
Paul Mennen, AOPA 856519
Cross-country in a Cub
I found the article “ Cross-Country in a Cub” (December 2010 AOPA Pilot) very interesting. The author/pilot brought the trip alive for me in his text. I commend him for his efforts. However, I do have a problem with the opening picture on page 75 that (per the caption) shows the Grand Canyon. At no point in the article does the author state he flew over the Grand Canyon. The map of his route of flight on page 76 does not show the route of flight anywhere near the Grand Canyon. You did the author and your readers a disservice.
Don Hagedorn, AOPA 670814
Columbia, South Carolina
Our editors need to get out more—the photo shown is the Moab Valley in Utah. No one is pointing fingers, but some editor must have been in the eggnog early and mistakenly labeled the photo as the Grand Canyon. AOPA Pilot regrets the error.
Head of the class
I thank you for your article “ Head of the Class” regarding the training of future young aviators (December 2010 AOPA Pilot). My son attends Marine Military Academy (MMA) in Harlingen, Texas, and was pictured and quoted in your article. He is an AOPA member, as well! I assure you there is an up and coming fresh crop of aviators and our son is one of them.
The biggest deterrent to aviation instruction is the expense. Our son developed a passion for airplanes early and we have sacrificed to help. His plan is to double major in professional aviation and air traffic control at a major university. When he gets into the cockpit at either of these institutions of higher learning, I know his skill and professionalism will reflect well on Marine Military Academy.
Rene S. Reed
Marine Military Academy parent
Longing for solo
As a relatively new pilot (two years and 150 hours) I look forward to each issue of AOPA Pilot and gravitate to any article that might expand my knowledge/skill base as a pilot. I always enjoy Rod Machado’s articles and was interested in his recent commentary on the state of flight instruction (“ License to Learn: Longing to Solo,” December 2010 AOPA Pilot). My training was with a no-nonsense old-school CFI. The training aircraft were mostly steam-gauge-equipped 152s and 172s. The airplanes were flown off a 3,000-foot grass strip with trees at each end and on one side. My solo took place after 12 hours of instruction and was accomplished on that same strip. From talking to other pilots coming through this program, I would estimate that most students accomplished solo between 10 to 15 hours. My long cross-country occurred around 20 hours and I was ready for my flight test after four months and 42 hours.
No CFI should solo anyone without the requisite skills, but I suspect that there would be a higher percentage of student pilots acquiring their private certificates if CFIs were routinely allowing students to progress based on their abilities and not on an arbitrary standard.
Craig Wilson, AOPA 6369699
Raleigh, North Carolina
Rod Machado’s article may be a hint about what is keeping students from finishing. We should be sending pilots to their PPL at 40 hours; 80 is ridiculous.
I started flying at the age of 20 in 1967. I soloed at six hours, and got my private at 42 hours after nine months of instruction. There was no ground school; I used the books the FBO sold me for home study. I don’t think I was very exceptional.
What has changed? Not all that much. I learned in a Cessna 150 with basic radios and instruments. That’s all you need to know for the private pilot practical exam. I don’t think that students are the problem. Neither are the aircraft or airspace rules. I think that the only possible explanation must have to do with liability concerns of training schools.
Regardless, if it takes 80 hours to get to the private pilot exam, we have doubled the cost of a certificate versus the required hours. There is no real reason that a student should need that many hours.
Thomas E. Elam, AOPA 7113464