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NDB Approaches

I am in complete support for the continued use of NDBs and NDB approaches ("Dogfight: NDB Approaches," November 2011 AOPA Pilot). If I am flying to Canada or the Caribbean, I feel much more comfortable if I have to fall back to tracking

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I am in complete support for the continued use of NDBs and NDB approaches (“Dogfight: NDB Approaches,” November 2011 AOPA Pilot). If I am flying to Canada or the Caribbean, I feel much more comfortable if I have to fall back to tracking NDB routes. In some areas of the United States it might not be necessary to have an NDB approach if a VOR approach is available. However, if an NDB is the only approach available, weather permitting, I would support the continued use of NDBs at public-use airports. I like the idea of having GPS approaches, but when GPS signals (RAIM) are lost, no matter where in the world you might be, NDBs and VORs are all you are left to work with.

What if we were to get NDBs powered by solar energy? We should find a cheaper way to maintain NDBs, not decommission stations we might have to rely on in the future. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Maurice Ellis, AOPA 3595041
Baltimore, Maryland

I am a former airline pilot and have operated all over the world. The airline I worked for had all the latest equipment, yet the Boeing 757 I flew as captain had dual ADF receivers, which are necessary in many parts of the world. We were not approved for RNAV approaches or GPS approaches as the company thought it was much too expensive to gain and keep authorization for these procedures.

When flying nonprecision approaches such as an NDB approach, we did use the RNAV feature on our aircraft, but were required to monitor both the audio and the visual display of the NDB during an approach. If the NDB was out of service we could not legally shoot the approach.

Small countries do not have the finances to build, certify, and maintain an ILS—nor do they have the finances to design, certify, and maintain (recurrent certification) of other types of instrument approach facilities. Our company could not even bid on a contract in Southeast Asia as several of the airports require duel ADF receivers, which the Boeing 737s did not have and the cost of adding this would be extremely expensive. So, yes, we do need NDBs, even here in the USA.

Michael Berry, AOPA 966369
Stanfield, Arizona

I can see Dave Hirschman has strong opinions regarding the use of the NDB system and those thoughts may have reasonable validity in the lower 48 states. Doing away with NDBs here in Alaska would make flying to many of our villages impossible or, at best, unbelievably hard. I’m an instrument-rated private pilot who flies her Cessna 172 around Alaska where I live. We’re primarily Class G airspace up here with very little in the way of radar coverage, towers, and ATC help outside of the major hubs (which are very few). NDBs, while not fancy or high tech, are all we have in many places and, believe me, we’re grateful to have even that. If you want an experience that will give you more understanding of why NDBs are not to be abandoned—at least not in remote flying—please come fly in Alaska for a few weeks. Most of us GA pilots do not have a panel-mounted glass cockpit—we have steam gauges, VORs, ADFs, and a handheld GPS.

Carole G. Comeau, AOPA 5109062
Eagle River, Alaska

My friend, a Boeing 747-400 captain, says an ADF approach is an emergency procedure. He says the same thing about circling approaches. I have flown plenty of ADF approaches and NDB airways in both Canada and Europe, but that was more than 30 years ago. I would have liked for the loran system to stay intact and maintained (but, it has already been partially dismantled) because GPS is “sky-bound” and loran is “earth-bound,” giving two real sources of independent navigation information. I have a lot of nostalgia for old things, being one myself, but it won’t bother me if I don’t have to shoot another NDB approach.

Bill Zollinger, AOPA 0569727
Germantown, Tennessee

One of the other great uses for the NDB is tracking regular AM radio stations, an aid in rural areas. Watching an NDB needle while being vectored for an ILS approach, for instance, can surely give you a heads-up if the final intercept angle is going to place you inside, or outside, the outer marker. I was a co-pilot on Cessna Citation Excels and Falcon 2000s up until 2004, and we had NDBs in all the airplanes—and used them. And having a “homegrown” navigation system is going to be essential now that the Chinese have the ability to shoot down satellites. I believe for security reasons alone that we have to keep systems we have total control over, be it NDBs, loran, and the VOR system. It scares me to think of disposing of all other systems in favor of the vulnerable GPS system. Those who oppose NDBs are really those who don’t want to have to learn them—those who like to look at picture screens and not have to have a mental picture of where they are. Sorry to say.

Stuart B. Harnden, AOPA 1349267
Bedford, New Hampshire

Stop the bashing, start the building

When I read Tom Haines’ article “Waypoints: Stop the Bashing, Start the Building” (November 2011 AOPA Pilot), my first thought was to cancel my membership. Haines’’ article represents everything that is bad with lobbyists. The plain facts were these [automobile] companies were bankrupt and still paying CEOs outrageous amounts of money and, yes, flying around in the lap of luxury of corporate jets. At the same time they were asking the taxpayers to give them money to continue their lifestyle. Not so many years ago another magazine uncovered many CEOs were playing golf at their private country clubs during the week. They were supposed to be hard at work earning their multimillion-dollar incomes, not playing golf. The reaction from the CEOs to the article was to contact USGA, the body that oversees golf handicaps, and demanded their information be kept confidential.

Corporate aircraft can be very useful tools, but they are not inexpensive. The sooner we stop this corporate excess, the sooner this country will return to a solid economy where business will be successful and GA will have its rightful place in corporate America. Until then I will fight for my country and the free enterprise system, where successful companies grow and failed companies die.

Howard Paul, AOPA 1299930
Mountain View, California

There are two points I would like to add: 1) the people most likely to abuse executive privilege with aircraft have proven to be members of Congress, and, 2) there is no need to embed a chip behind your ear for someone to track you. It can already be done to anyone who carries a smartphone, which many people own—some people may even require surgery to remove the phone.

Jon Roberts, AOPA 6132250
Columbus, Ohio

Powerless flight

I enjoyed Dave Hirschman—s article on flying a glider (“Challenges: Powerless Flight,” November 2011 AOPA Pilot). In my more than 2,200 hours I have witnessed many pilots— flying skills. Without exception, those who have flown gliders are above-average pilots, especially when it comes to energy management.

I wish that the FAA would require all pilots earning a living carrying passengers (commercial certificates) to qualify in aerobatic flight, tailwheel airplanes, and gliders. Those three skill sets more than likely would have prevented the Colgan crash. I think also that glider flying can be the best bang for the buck. It can be the cheapest way to get airborne in an airplane while learning better flying skills than your average power pilot.

If you think being towed aloft by another aircraft is exhilarating, try a winch tow. You can achieve about half the altitude of the length of the winch line. If your winch is 5,000 feet away at the other end of the field, you should be able to reach 2,000 to 2,500 feet above the airport depending on conditions. And that winch launch will only cost about $10—and that leaves a profit for the winch operator.

My only wish is that AOPA (and EAA?) would take over/absorb the SSA (Soaring Society of America), which seems to do a horrible job of promoting soaring, and put soaring on the forefront of the pilot-growing agenda. No medical required for those who can’t afford LSA, and a great way for youth to get involved and eventually transition to power. I hope Hirschman (and the entire staff of AOPA) continues and get glider ratings. You’ll all be better pilots because of it. You might even look forward to your next forced landing.

Ian Wayman, AOPA 2610493
Peyton, Colorado

Dave Hirschman’s first glider flight reminded me of my first flight and how I kept looking over my shoulder for the runway and thinking, how are we ever going to make it back there?

Fred Sherick, AOPA 1485442
Tarentum, Pennsylvania

Hot rolls!

This letter is regarding the “Fly Outs” article “Hot Rolls!” in the November 2011 issue of AOPA Pilot. That place looks like a lot of fun; you would probably have to adjust your weight and balance figures after enjoying a meal at Lambert’s.

The real reason I am writing about the article, though, is because of the photo of the waiter tossing a hot roll. It’s pure photographic gold, snapped just at the perfect millisecond of that tasty treat’s trajectory. If you look at the burly man in the red tank top seated at the table on the right hand side of the photo, the flying roll perfectly aligns with his head and it looks like the roll is his head. It cracks me up every time I look at it.

Mark A. Messina, AOPA 5224291
Wilton, Connecticut


An article in the “Pilot Briefing” section of the September 2011 issue incorrectly indicated that the wings for the Carplane, a flying-car design in development in Germany, will be manually folded. They are electrically operated. AOPA Pilot regrets the error.

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