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Affordable Aerobat

Mike Collins touched my heart with his article "Honoring the Tuskegee Airmen" (December 2011 AOPA Pilot). Lt. Col. William Holloman III of the famed 332nd Fighter Group was a dear friend and passed away in 2010. Bill was a national treasure. Prior to his passing, he was looking forward to climbing back into a Stearman.

Write to AOPA Pilot

We welcome your comments. Address letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to [email protected]. Please include your full name, address, and AOPA number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.

I just want to say thank you. As a generally not-so-rich pilot who has never owned an airplane, it's nice for once to see an article about a great airplane that doesn't cost more than $100K (" Budget Buy: Affordable Aerobat," January 2012 AOPA Pilot). Only a few of the many pilots I know can afford to own an airplane and I think the people who live aviation—as in AOPA and magazine writers—have forgotten that. I can't tell you how disappointed I've been in the LSA market, when everything it offers newer than 40 years old is way more than $80,000 to $100,000 before it ever leaves the ground. I'm not sure I have the skills to handle a Pitts, but I do appreciate at least seeing an airplane that I might want to fly. If we think we're going to promote aviation, then we can't put it all out of the reach of the general public and expect it to grow.

Bruce Mathew, AOPA 3572436
Onalaska, Wisconsin

As a fellow S–1S owner for 13 years (and a Pitts snob) I appreciate you getting the word out on a fabulous little airplane. Today, so many pilots only think about airplanes with TV sets in the panel, it's refreshing to remind them about stick-and-rudder flying. It's true that landings are the price you pay to fly a Pitts. Here is what I do: On the 45-entry leg, I move the mic boom and slap my face with both hands—a reminder to wake up and have my game face on for the landing.

Slate Erickson, AOPA 6844184
Edgewood, Washington

"Don't do any more landings in a Pitts than you absolutely have to," the veteran Pitts pilot said. "No one ever completely masters them, so touch and goes only tempt fate."

Are you kidding?! The Pitts is the funnest airplane I've ever landed. It does everything any other taildragger will do—if you know how to fly it. It wheel lands on two wheels. Touch and goes are simple, whether you put the tailwheel down or not. I even do touch and goes on only one main and ride it down the runway on just that main before pulling back up. Why would you want to scare people by saying not to tempt fate? How about giving the advice of "learn how to fly your airplane" instead?

Christy Lichtenstein, AOPA 6992639
Sherman Oaks, California

The perfect trainer

Now you've done it. You just couldn't leave it alone. This is like a discussion on Darwin's theory and creationism or politics or, worse yet, college football! (" Dogfight: The Perfect Trainer," January 2012 AOPA Pilot.)

I learned to fly in a Cessna 150 and took my checkride in a 172 several years later. I built a tailwheel, low horsepower, wood-and-fabric airplane, and relearned to fly in a Taylorcraft L–2. Wow, did I find out the hard way those things under the instrument panel were not footrests. Since then I have flown several types of tailwheel airplanes, in crosswinds that made my knuckles white; owned an Aeronca Chief (which does ground loop, by the way); but now I own a trainingwheeled PA–28, and I fear no crosswinds, rather, I totally respect the wind. Always use the rudder to land in the direction I am heading. I think tailwheel training should be mandatory for every flight school.

Ric Petit, AOPA 2007149BR>Marshall, Texas

I am a 68-year-old pilot retired from the Air Force and American Airlines. I learned to fly in a Champ, from a World War II instructor whose attitude was, "I will teach you to fly and you can go elsewhere to get your license." I soloed in the Champ, second airplane was a PT-22. When I left for the Air Force and I had never landed on a paved strip or used a radio, but I had made formation takeoffs. In the final phase of the T–37 we got a formation demo ride and the instructor kept commenting, "Are you sure you haven't done this before?" I went through fighter lead in in a T–33 in Clovis, New Mexico, where the wind always blew. The instructor complimented me on my crosswind landing and asked where I learned to do that. I said I think I learned it in an Aeronca Champ. He did not even know what that was.

Jerry Prather, AOPA 779143
Glen Rose, Texas

You're both wrong! Learn to fly a glider first. You focus on airmanship. No distractions from the engine or radio. You can hear the instructor and learn about the art and joy of flying. After a few flights you learn to thermal—then you realize that the better you fly (coordinated turns, precise speed control at minimum controllable airspeed) the longer your flight is! You also have the best view out the window compared to any powered airplane I've ever been in. You'll never be able to look a red-tail hawk in the face from a Cessna.

Gerold Noyes, AOPA 4699548
Northfield Falls, Vermont

I am deeply disappointed that neither Horne nor Hirschman mentioned the Cessna 120/140 in their discussion of ideal trainers. There is an entire generation of pilots who learned to fly in the 140, and if you ask any one of them, they will defend the flying characteristics of that little airplane with utmost loyalty. To me, the ideal training regimen would pair the use of a 150/152 with a 120/140. By switching back and forth between the 140 and 150 the student will learn the characteristics of both types of gear on the ground, while having the reassurance (and the vivid demonstration) of near equality in the air.

Karin Rodland, AOPA 1172703
Richland, Washington

Don't touch the radios

My husband and I are both certificated pilots. When we fly together, the PIC does everything: aviate, navigate, communicate, and operate all the avionics (" Never Again: Don't Touch the Radios," January 2012 AOPA Pilot). We believe the PIC ought to be able to do all tasks required as PIC, so doing everything is good practice for when we are operating solo. The nonflying pilot's only official tasks are to "look over the shoulder" of the flying pilot, to make sure something important isn't overlooked, including spotting traffic, unless the flying pilot asks for assistance.

Crista Worthy, AOPA 4818508
Hidden Springs, Idaho

I began my Part 121 career a decade ago in the right seat of an ATR and I'll never forget one of my first captains saying, "There is only one knob on this entire flight deck with your name on it and it's that one," pointing at the FO windshield wiper. "Don't touch anything else." The concept of crew resource management may seem like something only airlines concern themselves with, but anytime there is more than one certificated pilot on board an aircraft, there is a crew. If there's a rated and competent pilot sitting next to me, I want to use them too. Brief your temporary crew member on your expectations and personal standard operating procedures, and then invite them to speak up if they see something out of the ordinary. Two pilots on board should add to, not detract from, the safety of the flight, and proper communication can make sure that happens.

Sean Curry, AOPA 1201533
Houston, Texas

Was that for me?

Dr. Jonathan M. Sackier's article was somewhat timely with a question I have, but did not address prevention (" Fly Well: Was That for Me?" January 2012 AOPA Pilot). I have young children (ages 18 months and 3-1/2 years) and have not yet flown with them in small airplanes primarily because I am concerned about the noise levels. How harmful is the noise of a typical single engine GA airplane for two or three hours of exposure for small children? Are there hearing-protection devices that fit children this small?

Danny Glaser, AOPA 1171517
Denver, Colorado

Dr. Jonathan M. Sackier responds: The noise levels are damaging for small ears but the resolution is the same. I took my children flying when they were very young and acclimatized them to wearing noise-cancelling headsets, which to my mind are worth the investment. I would bring the headsets home and we would make a game of it pretending to talk while they wore the protection. When it came time to get into the airplane they were only too eager to don the gear. I also take my 65-pound dog, Haggis, flying and he very happily wears his headsets as his hearing is also important.

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