The Twin Bonanza on the cover of the November 2015 AOPA Pilot brought back memories for some pilots—and made at least one reader do a double take.
When I pulled the November AOPA Pilot out of the mailbox and glanced at the cover, I thought, “nice Baron.” A few seconds later the realization struck that it was no Baron.
More than any other aircraft, the Twin Bonanza is probably the most responsible for me becoming a pilot. In 1955 my family moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, so my dad could begin work at the national laboratory. Los Alamos was then connected to Albuquerque International Airport via contract airline service provided by Carco Air Service, a company founded after World War II by New Mexico aviation pioneer Clark Carr. They flew a fleet of twin and single Bonanzas, a C–47 for larger passenger loads, and a C–54 for freight. The Twin Bonanzas captured my 10-year-old heart. Carco flew nine round-trips per day so there was plenty of opportunity to watch the T-Bones arrive and depart. The beautiful sound of the GO-480s was heard all over town as it bounced off the Jemez Mountains across the plateau.
The airport was a closed operation and heavily fenced, but my friends and I were able to find eroded places under it that provided access. We would then sit on the end of the runway as the T-Bones passed a few feet overhead. The pilots must have figured out what was going on, because they never ratted on us.
As I grew and went off to college, opportunities arose to fly in the T-Bones—a dream come true. By this time they showed the wonderful patina only old, veteran aircraft can exude. I recall numerous complaints when the one-way fare between Los Alamos and Albuquerque International Airport was raised to $8. In the mid-1970s the contract was awarded to Ross Aviation. They initially flew Aztecs and then switched to DHC–6 Twin Otters—OK but not quite the same cool as the T-Bones.
Thanks so much for the article. It brought back a flood of wonderful memories.
Los Alamos, New Mexico
I enjoyed your article regarding the Beechcraft Twin Bonanza. In the sidebar “History Lesson,” I was disappointed to read that you ended the note on the military service of the Twin Bonanza as having done some utility work in the Korean War. Far more interesting and important—and where the T-Bone really earned her wings—was in Vietnam, doing top secret work as an airborne radio intercept and direction finding platform.
Designated as the RU–8D and flying for the 224th Aviation Battalion (Radio Research), these aircraft and their crews plied the skies of Vietnam listening for Viet Cong and NVA radio communications, tipping off commanders on the ground as to the location of enemy units, no doubt in the process saving countless American lives by providing actionable intelligence in real time.
The Twin Bonanza RU–8D is the granddaddy of all of the modern ISR platforms flying today and needs to be recognized for its contribution to the defense of our nation.
President, 138th Aviation Company Memorial Inc.
Ponte Vedra, Florida
I just read Barry Schiff’s big bang article. I had an easier St. Elmo experience on a flight from Los Angeles to Kansas City Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in a Boeing 707. I was letting down from cruise through cirrus at night when the nose started to glow. It was cone shaped and growing larger when the captain calmly said, “You better slow it down or it will let go.” I reduced speed and it retracted. He then said that it would have gotten noisy if I had not acted when I did. One good thing about having been a senior first officer for several years was that I got to fly with very experienced senior captains. I had seen St. Elmo’s on the windshield before but nothing like this!
In his November 2015 column, aviation attorney John Yodice correctly mentioned that it is a good safety practice to turn on anticollision lights before engine start as a warning to those nearby that a propeller is about to turn. This also is a required procedure employed by all airlines and probably all bizjet operators.
I’d like to take this one step further and add that the anti-collision light switch should never be turned off when on the ground. In this manner, you can always look back at your airplane after tying it down to confirm that you have turned off the master switch. A flashing anticollision light would serve notice that you have not. This practice once saved me from the embarrassment and inconvenience of a dead battery, the result of a bystander observing me walking away from an airplane and informing me that my rotating beacon was still rotating.
I read Dave Hirschman’s “Frugal Flier” on a VFR ferry kit. All great stuff, except for one item that may cause issues: Afrin.
Any over-the-counter medication should be taken with caution when flying. The FAA airman education paper Intro to Aviation Physiology states, “Over-the-counter medications tend to mask unsafe conditions and make the crew member unsafe.” It lists a few over-the-counter meds, including Afrin, and lists “excessive stimulation, dizziness, difficulty with urination, palpitations” as possible side effects. Oxymetazoline, the active ingredient in Afrin, can cause side effects such as blurred vision; fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeat; headache, dizziness, drowsiness, or lightheadedness; nervousness; trembling, trouble in sleeping; and weakness. Not exactly what pilots should be experiencing.
In a former life I flew tactical jets as a naval aviator. Small tactical jets don’t have deice capability, so the standard technique for getting down through a freezing layer was a penetration involving rapid changes in altitude. If you had a bit of congestion, the rapid pressure changes could wreak havoc with your sinuses. I carried a small bottle of Afrin in my flight suit pocket—but only for emergencies. Once you used it, the flight doc grounded you—for both the congestion and possible side effects.
IMSAFE is a pretty good check. I: If you have congestion that causes some blockage you probably should postpone your flight to another day. M: If you are taking any medicine, especially if there are side effects, you should consult a doctor, and probably ground yourself until you are no longer on the meds.
I laud your organization for publishing the recent article on Craig Barnett of Scheme Designers, and his effort to defend his intellectual property—his aircraft paint schemes. A good portion of your membership might think a custom paint scheme to be a frivolous thing to try to protect, and quite frankly free to copy. However, there is real value in the design. How many times have you seen the same aircraft look like an uninteresting blob with a bad paint scheme, or transformed into an appealing object of desire with a great design? It is appropriate that this value should be recognized, and those benefitting from it compensate the designer.
San Anselmo, California
Nice article (“Waypoints: Morning Flight”). Makes me want to have been there. My original sea rating was in a non-amphib, 75-horsepower J–3 Cub on Watauga Lake, East Tennessee (1,959 feet msl). Defines patience management!
Just saw the great article and photos/video (“Joining the Raiders,” December 2015 AOPA Pilot). One thing caught my eye: The vintage crew photograph is of a B–29 crew on Saipan, not the Panchito crew on Okinawa. In January 1945, the 41st Bomb Group was still in Hawaii and not yet deployed back into combat. Here is a photo of the ground crew of Panchito (many shirts off in the Okinawa heat).
Larry D. Kelley
Mardela Springs, Maryland
We welcome your comments. Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701 or email ([email protected]). Letters may be edited for length and style before publication.
Once a week or more 6%
Once a month or more 13%
Once a quarter or more 13%
A few times a year 36%
Aviation eBrief poll
See “When Night VFR Becomes IFR,” p. 88, for special night-flying considerations.
“Having only been overseas once, which was Ireland (or as I like to call it, Europe with training wheels), Slovenia proved to be…surprising,” says AOPA Photographer Chris Rose, who got a preview of the Pipistrel Panthera in the Central European nation for the story “Fast cat,” p. 42. “Gone are the days of war and bad cars typically associated with its former Yugoslavian self. Yes, it’s still austere in many ways, and technology still sticks out here. The Pipistrel Panthera is a prime example. Throughout our photo shoot, its clean, swept lines and modern looks stood in stark contrast to the quaint villages and towering Alps passing below. Yet I came to realize that it was the perfect setting to photograph the aircraft: not a cityscape or a modern airport environment, but where it came from. A beautiful country full of contrasts that I look forward to returning to.”