Let the rumble begin… . Starting this month, with “ Dogfight,” Senior Editor Dave Hirschman and Editor at Large Tom Horne will from time to time share some ongoing debates—typical of pilots everywhere—in the hope that the clash of ideas brings out new information, or new perspectives, that improves the way we fly.
“Tom Horne’s a smart guy and an excellent, highly experienced pilot, but our disagreements about flying are frequent and profound,” says Hirschman. “On subjects as varied as favorite airplanes, crosswind landing technique, pattern entry procedures, and lean-of-peak engine operations, we always seem to reach opposite conclusions. His logic rarely moves me, and I can assure you that mine never changes his mind. Usually, we just agree to disagree. (Or maybe you’ll just realize that I’m right and Tom’s wrong.) In any case, fight’s on.”
“Dave Hirschman’s got a lot of flying time and has built a considerable reputation as an author, aerobatics instructor, and all-around good stick,” says Horne. “But I fear that he has a renegade streak that he simply cannot contain, poor soul. If the book says A, then Dave says B, and with fanatical enthusiasm. Yes, he has his points, but sticking with standard procedures doesn’t seem to be one of them. In ‘ Dogfight,’ you’ll have a front-row seat as I attempt to nudge him away from the dark side. This will, I’m afraid, be a Sisyphean task, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. To help you in your decision making, I offer this helpful advice: I’m right!”
Novelist Stephen Coonts’ visit to Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility to report on the development of the F–35 (“ The Joint Strike Super Fighter”) reminded him that tactical military aviation has always turned the flight experience paradigm on its head: The most expensive, most capable, most demanding tactical machines are flown by young men and women in their mid-to-late twenties. Coonts was 23 years old and had less than 300 hours in his logbook when he first climbed into the left seat of an A–6 Intruder. “By their mid-thirties, most military pilots are shuffled into the bureaucracy, unless they are selected to command a squadron or air wing. Regardless, by the age of 40, the vast majority of fighter and attack pilots are relegated to flying desks, executive jets, or airliners. Any way you cut it, the military system is a huge waste of training and experience,” Coonts says.
“When I ran into Jeff Paulson in 2008 he mentioned he was starting to build, from scratch, a Stinson Model O—a what?” says freelance writer Ken Scott (“ Boy, ‘O’ Boy”). “The project was as much about resurrection as it was construction.” Stinson built just 10 of these open-cockpit airplanes and only one stayed in the United States. It disappeared in 1945, so Paulson was constructing the airplane using only 20 contemporary photographs and the knowledge that Stinson used some parts from its other airplanes in the O. Two and half years later, the beautiful maroon/red parasol two-holer lifted off the runway at Scappoose, Oregon, with Paulson at the helm. “A few weeks later, I found myself in the back pit, gripping the massive laminated- wood control stick. The round Lycoming rumbled us aloft, and I became one of the first pilots in 65 years to experience the stately flying manners of the Stinson Model O,” Scott says.