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Gone WestGone West

Many readers related to author Chip Wright’s story on the passing of his father and their final flight together. I read the article “Gone West” by Chip Wright with tears in my eyes.

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december issueMany readers related to author Chip Wright’s story on the passing of his father and their final flight together.

I read the article “Gone West” by Chip Wright with tears in my eyes. It brought back so many memories of my own dad and the many ways in which he influenced my life. My dad passed away very unexpectedly at the early age of 54. He never had the opportunity to become a pilot, but it was a dream of his. A friend who he worked with took him for a flight in a rented Cessna 152, an experience that he often talked about. In the years after his death, I have become a student pilot, and hopefully someday soon I will take that checkride and fulfill one of the dreams that my Dad was never able to realize. It wasn’t until after his death and I had started taking flying lessons that I stumbled across a picture his friend had taken of Dad standing in front of that rented Cessna. I got a lump in my throat when I recognized the tail number. It was the very airplane I had been using for my flight lessons.

Greg Sollenberger,
AOPA 5578221
Quarryville, Pennsylvania

I earned my private pilot certificate in 1980, and my late dad was my first passenger—in a Piper Tomahawk, no less. He didn’t say very much while aloft, but I could tell he was amazed at the beauty before him as we cruised along one mile above the Earth. The air was smooth and the skies clear. We landed on Runway 34, and to this day, I cannot repeat that landing. It was so smooth I could not feel the tires touch the pavement. As we pulled off the runway, Pop said to me, "Thank you for a wonderful flight. I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life." I leaned over and whispered, "You’re welcome."

William M. Reigle,
AOPA 716636
Spring Grove, Pennsylvania

Little jet, big mess

Interesting article about the BD–5 and, of course, the infamous Jim Bede (“micro”). I believe one point most fail to make is not how many generations of pilots Bede inspired but how many he destroyed. I can cite two—both good friends who dreamed, purchased, chased, and ultimately failed at ever getting the BD–5 built, much less flying. They both spend untold time, money, and energy (even traveling back to the factory from California to secure paid-for parts) trying to get their dream airborne, all the while being deceived by Bede and his ilk. In the end, having spent all their money and energy, they never built or really flew again. Imagine a simple blue-collar electrician (with a family of three) scrimping and saving and working overtime only to lose everything he invested to a big talker. Bede stole their dreams of flight. You might say it wasn’t strong enough, but knowing my second friend, a B–24 combat pilot in World War II with 50 missions, you might have second thoughts.

Gary Bunn
Las Vegas, Nevada

Thank you for a great article on Jim Bede’s BD-5J. I had the privilege of growing up on the same street as Bede.  His energy and enthusiasm for aviation is what got me interested in obtaining my private pilot certificate. My brother also worked at Bede Aviation at Cuyahoga County Airport. His stories and the memories of Mr. Bede were brought back reading the article. Thanks for portraying him in a respectful manner. Too many times past he has been maligned for bad business practices and not appreciated for his aeronautical accomplishments.

Steve Kitko,
AOPA 4275383
Solon, Ohio

Everybody wins

Rod Machado’s columns are always humorous and informative. By far the most humorous column I’ve read in a long time is “License to Learn: Everyone Wins.”

I started instructing in 1967 and was paid a lofty $7 an hour at the Burbank Airport in California. It was great fun and the money allowed me a campus lifestyle that very few students
could keep up with. Recently I saw an ad for CFIs for a couple of big schools in California that train ab initio students for major airlines. The highest staring salary was $19 an hour for a CFI-I ASMEL. That’s not much money for a person that has invested more than $60,000 in learning a skill.

I found a constant-dollar calculator. I entered $7 and the year 1967. The 2012 constant-dollar equivalent is $48.48. That kind of salary would be a big incentive to draw people into the CFI field. The cost of flight training was serious money in the 1960s, but it paid at a rate that made it worthwhile. The pay problem continues after flight instruction apprenticeship. A pay scale published for the largest small-package carrier in the country only pays $1,800 a month for a new first officer. Are they serious? A first-year hair stylist makes more. My handyman wants $500 a day for his services. All pilots love flying, but we have to be well paid for the position. I am happy to see that smart people are not investing their money without hope of fair compensation. 

David Fisch,
AOPA 965311
North Las Vegas, Nevada

Rod Machado will receive a lot of grief, but it couldn’t be more on the money. I have been a CFI for 36 years, flown in the military, retired from a major airline, and now have the privilege of being an FAA flight examiner. I was 29 years old and had 2,500 hours when I got hired by American Airlines. Now I’m 63 and know what takes to be an asset on the flight deck of a 121 carrier. Put your time in, young man; pay your dues; and you will be rewarded. I was.

Dan Unger,
AOPA 4680611
Saint Clair, Michigan

True confessions

Barry Schiff does not have acrophobia (fear of heights) but a fear of edges. If he had true acrophobia, he wouldn’t have the flying career he has had. As my psychiatrist brother-in-law explained to me, acrophobia is an irrational fear of heights. His patients have trouble riding in elevators, let alone airplanes. The fear of edges (which I also have) is a rational survivor holdover from prehistoric times when a healthy fear of edges such as cliffs kept your genes in the gene pool. I can spend hours upside down in a Pitts S–2A or Stearman hanging by my shoulder straps with my only concern being do I have enough cash for this? But I canceled my introductory parachute jump when I stood two feet off the ground in the open hatch of a Pilatus. I also will not look over the edge of the railing in front of my room facing the open courtyard of a Hyatt Regency Hotel. Neither will my buddy who flew F–4s in Vietnam.

David Werdegar,
AOPA 3702700
Naperville, Illinois

Strange how so many pilots share this characteristic. I cannot get up on my own roof or beyond the sixth or seventh rung on any ladder.

Howard Kave,
AOPA 1206353
New Windsor, New York


Thank you for providing an accurate article describing the tragic events that led to the loss of John Denver and his Long-EZ (“Safety Pilot: Landmark Accident”). As an owner of a Long-EZ, I hear the same question concerning this accident over and over. In my 24 years of flying, I believe the Long-EZ is one of the safest airplanes I have ever flown (I have around 15,000 hours in everything from gliders to 767-400s). I recently took my EZ down to the Cayman Islands and hope to fly much, much farther in the future. This relatively small group of owners has great pride in these extraordinary flying machines. Long-EZs have flown around the world many times and hold numerous records to prove it. I am proud to be part of this flying community and a member of AOPA.

Mike Turner,
AOPA 1130771
Acworth, Georgia

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