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From our January cover story on the Czech Republic-designed Bristell to a look at the Cessna Skycatcher as a trainer and an industry overview, we focused on the LSA market.
I was disappointed to see the Bristell LSA on the cover of AOPA Pilot. Promoting such an airplane flies in the face of the pressing need to draw many new people into the pilot population. Why showcase a $150,000 luxury Light Sport airplane that almost no pilot could afford to buy, and few afford to rent?
The same complaint could be made about the Cessna Skycatcher article (“Buying Into the Dream”). But, perhaps inadvertently, it made two important points: 1) The Cessna 162 is a failed effort: over-designed, overpriced, overweight, and overdue. Only an eventual increase in maximum gross weight could save this bird. 2) All I have read about AOPA’s commendable effort to resurrect flying clubs has stressed small-group purchases of airplanes for personal use. But the wider benefit of nonprofit flying clubs is to reduce rental costs to pilots for whom ownership is out of reach, and to give them a greater stake in the airplanes they fly.
I’m deeply grateful for Light Sport aviation, and at the same time very disappointed with how it has been implemented—by manufacturers, fixed base operators, buyers, and renters. Few among these groups seem to have the slightest interest in reducing the cost of flying for the nonowner. That’s why I rent a venerable Aeronca Champ.
John F. Cowan,
Scotts Valley, California
Thanks for the wonderful article on the Cessna Skycatcher. I’ve been flying a Skycatcher from Leesburg, Virginia, for several months now and have come to love the airplane. With modern avionics, a generously sized interior, and easy handling habits—as long as one is mindful not to carry extra speed on short final—it is as close to perfect as an LSA can get. It has put the fun back into flying for me and my hope is that this article will convince flying schools and clubs that the aircraft is tough and capable of paying its way. With luck, the Cessna 162 will be the foundation for training hundreds of thousands of new pilots over the next three to four decades, as the 150/152 was before it.
Great Falls, Virginia
Watch what you eat
I was flipping through the pages of the January issue of AOPA Pilot and got to your article (“Briefing”). Great stuff! This is a topic that all pilots should be more familiar with. What we eat has a huge impact on how we feel and helps keep us alert during our nonstandard schedule.
In all my training over the years, this is the first time I’ve seen any advice for pilots regarding nutrition. This is a common-sense issue, but when most of us are hungry it usually flies out the window. I will embrace the suggestions, and would ask there be another article expanding upon this.
Los Angeles, California
Oh, no, vertigo
Dr. Jonathan Sackier’s article does a great job in explaining the causes and effects of vertigo (“Fly Well”). But the article seems to miss an important strategy for recovery from unexpected vertigo. He indicates that, “Noninstrument-rated pilots have a life expectancy of less than three minutes in IMC.” Every article on VFR into IMC should include the reminder that simply activating an autopilot (if equipped) could level the wings and allow a safe turn back to VFR.
Curb their enthusiasm
As he is the president of the AOPA Foundation, I was surprised to see such a negative article (“Safety Pilot: Curb Their Enthusiasm”) from Bruce Landsberg.
Landsberg may have just hit on the core reason we’re seeing a decline: an unwillingness of those in aviation today to change, or progress forward, because of a fear of youthful exuberance. The enthusiasm and exuberance of today’s young pilots should be courted, mined, and used for the benefit of aviation progression. And ultimately to accomplish AOPA’s mission today: introduce new people to aviation and grow the base of pilots so that GA can continue to innovate, inspire, and—maybe, just maybe—bring out a little more youthful exuberance in all of us.
Bruce Landsberg responds: Having been a young pilot (I learned to fly in college) and a CFI, I understand your enthusiasm, but this is a performance activity and we need to call things as they are. The numbers speak.
Dave Hirschman’s article included a paragraph detailing the difficulties of using touchscreen avionics in an open-cockpit airplane (“P&E: Ownership”).
How did “touchscreen” and “open cockpit” end up in the same article, much less the same sentence? Six round gauges, a wire on a float, and lots of blank wood or aluminum should be all you want in an open cockpit. Having flown Stearmans in subfreezing conditions on a number of occasions, I heartily agree with the rest of the article.
Make sure that paper chart doesn’t slip out of your gloved hand—it will leave the cockpit so fast you won’t even
see it go.
Why do airplanes cost so much?
Thanks for Tom Haines’ article about the cost of airplanes (“Waypoints”). He made some great points. One cost not mentioned, however, is the loss in value of aircraft after they fly off the showroom floor. For years many manufacturers overproduced, over-financed, and over-hyped their newest products to the detriment of current owners. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to plop down three hundred grand in the mid-2000s for a state-of-the-art airplane, only to find that in a few short years their “investment” was now worth a fraction of what they were ever lead to believe. OEMs like to point to “unforeseen” circumstances such as $100 per barrel of oil and an overall economic slowdown, but they too have plenty of blame. It’s incumbent upon manufacturers to help preserve the value of already-sold aircraft so that those same owners will return. Their short-term sales goals have become a long-term nightmare. The owners who once were so excited about the prospects of general aviation and aircraft ownership have been burned and may be reluctant to ever buy a new aircraft again.
I do not buy the argument that the astronomical prices of new airplanes has to do with certification costs. Aircraft like Haines’s Bonanza have been certified for decades. The legacy manufacturers are pricing themselves out of existence (e.g., Mooney). Beechcraft is next in line. Could it be that if the current prices were lower, many, many more would be sold and they could survive?