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Letters from our May 2021 issue

Can air

Aluminum art captured pilots' imagination.
Can Air

I loved Ian J. Twombly’s article on building aluminum can aircraft (“Can Air”). I’ve known Wayne Mathis for years and even visited him at his home in Montana several years ago. When I retired in 2005, I started looking for a “crafty” new hobby and stumbled across Wayne’s website. I ordered one of his sets of plans and I was hooked! I’ve named my hobby the A.C. (Aluminum Can) Aircraft Company—not to be confused with Wayne’s B.C. (Beer Can) Air. I’ve modified many of his plans and even came up with a few new aircraft plans myself. I just finished my 476th and 477th aluminum can airplanes a couple of weeks ago. You can see some of my work at facebook.com/acaircraft. I’ve built and shipped my airplanes all over the country and as far away as Austria, Israel, the Philippines, and South Africa. I’ve also donated dozens of airplanes to charities for auction, and at one time I had a contract with Red Bull to build some aircraft for supermarket displays. Wayne even made me a colonel in his B.C. Air Force. With arthritis setting in I’m slowing down, but my goal is to build 500 airplanes.

Bill Waite
A.C. Aircraft Company
Oak Harbor, Washington

A fascinating article (“Can Air”). I had no idea somebody was offering “professionally designed” can models. These are closely related to my own hobby, which is design and build of 1:33 card-stock models. The challenges are similar: You’re dealing with stiff, two-dimensional material that greatly resists compound curves. I admire the can models, but am aesthetically bothered by the resulting beer or soda graphics on an otherwise nice model. I strive for realism in color and graphics. Everything you see is paper, except the clear canopy and the prop spinners, which I vac-form.

Bob Lutz
AOPA 1251411
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Flying moms

Thank you, Alyssa J. Cobb and AOPA, for this article about these flying moms (“Flying Moms”). Although I always feel a bit inadequate when I read about women accomplishing monumental and numerous tasks in one day, I celebrate their accomplishments and love reading about them.

These women have worked hard to fulfill their dreams and make it all happen. I salute you all!

Susan Jankord
AOPA 853745
Wichita, Kansas

Pilots

Love how you highlighted the woman helicopter pilot on the last page of this month’s AOPA magazine (“Pilots: Sam ‘Samantha’ Poirier”). Very inspiring to young women and women aviators of all ages. Thanks for the awesome article and all that you contribute to your fine magazine.

Dan Hannigan
AOPA 1365914
Geneva, Illinois

Kudos

I must admit to a bad habit. When I read my flying magazines, I tear some pages out. Those pages contain my favorite articles. I place them in a manila file folder for future reference and enjoyment. This has been going on for decades and the file is large. The last time I checked, the vast majority of those pages were articles written by Barry Schiff, my favorite flying author. Heck, I even carry one article around with me full time to share with deserving first officers. “Proficient Pilot: At the Hearing” published in December 2019 is so good it should be reproduced in our flight operations manuals.

Dan Jordan
AOPA 600450
Parker, Colorado

Distractions

Thomas B. Haines’ article about minimizing distractions from passengers (in this case, his daughter and her friends) in critical flight phases (“Waypoints: Distractions: Dispatch Them”) was superb. A review of the NTSB database will offer some insights regarding the possibility of such distractions being contributory but usually are not definitive like pilot error or maintenance-induced failure. His approach of relating his experience instead of citing NTSB findings brought this into reality for many, I hope.

I practice sterile cockpit procedures for all under 3,000 feet agl—easy with family and grown-ups like when doing an Angel Flight, but difficult with younger folks.

Certainly an argument could be made for using this only when high-workload communications are present, but the reality is that developing the habit and standard all the time will help prevent distraction and preserve lives during critical phases of flight where we tend to see more aircraft closer together (and hence more accidents). Thanks for writing the column—I hope there are a lot of pilots who read it and then implement a similar standard.

J.R. Haley
AOPA 8967881
New Port Richey, Florida

Barely legal

I read Thomas A. Horne’s article, “The Contact Approach: Barely Legal” and a better title might have been “The Contact Approach: Barely Safe.” 

The one time I did use the contact approach in an airplane, I was in a turbocharged Beechcraft Bonanza headed to West Virginia’s Yeager Airport (CRW) early in the morning and the field was IFR. The ATIS kept coming out with a special and the visibility kept going from below minimums for the ILS 23 to barely at minimums. Once I was cleared for the approach, ATC handed me over to the tower and the tower reported quarter-mile visibility in fog in calm winds as I descended the glideslope. At minimums, I could see nothing, so I called go-around/missed approach. The minute I started climbing, at approximately 200 feet agl, the entire airport came into view! Clear skies, not even any scud. Everything except the numbers of Runway 23 was in view. I told the controller I would do a contact approach to Runway 5 and landed uneventfully.

It was only because of my helicopter training that I knew about contact approaches and special VFR. Horne is right, CFIs abhor contact approaches and they are rarely taught. But like most things in aviation, learn the nuances of a rule and apply it safely and it can be an important tool. 

Jorge de Cubas
AOPA 639335
Sherrills Ford, North Carolina

Headache for GA

In response to “Headache for GA” in the May 2021 issue of AOPA Pilot:

The Global Positioning System is the single greatest invention in the history of navigation. We have all reaped immense benefit from GPS in terms of both safety and productivity. With the FAA’s current plan to decommission hundreds of traditional navaids, GPS becomes even more important for aviation. While I support AOPA’s efforts to engage with the FAA to mitigate problems associated with GPS jamming exercises, I want readers to know how vital those GPS jamming exercises are to the U.S. military. I know firsthand the frustration, task saturation, and disorientation of GPS jamming: “Someone” jammed my GPS receiver on a U.S. Air Force combat mission not too many years ago. Training and contingency procedures saved the day. It is vital for GA pilots to have a plan to handle the loss of a GPS signal, be it caused by aircraft system failures or external jamming. Canceling IFR, radar vectors, and good old dead reckoning all come to mind. (Navaid coverage is still available at/above 5,000 feet agl.) These GPS jamming exercises won’t, and shouldn’t, go away; they are critical for preparing the U.S. military for when (not if) GPS becomes unavailable to them in the heat of battle. Final thought: Please inform readers that it is very unprofessional to ask ATC to “stop buzzer” out of convenience; plan ahead and it will all work out just fine.

Mark Melin
AOPA 10842522
Colorado Springs, Colorado

We welcome your comments. Send letters to Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701 or [email protected] Letters may be edited for length and style.

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