Unicom

September 2006 Issue




Unicom: 09/06

Safer Trainers
I enjoyed your coverage of the new training airplanes’ safety features (“Building A Safer Trainer,” August 2006), but I am afraid the future for all three of these choices is very limited. It seems likely they will be replaced with the much less expensive S-LSA airplanes now coming onto the market.

It is not clear to me which of the S-LSA aircraft will prove to be best for primary training. Whichever ones come out best, the lower purchase price and operating costs for these planes are certain to make them the popular choice over any airplanes certified under Part 23.

Paul Mulwitz
Camas, Wash.


The market for light sport aircraft (LSAs) is just beginning to blossom. And, if Cessna’s announcement during the recently concluded EAA AirVenture Oshkosh extravaganza is any indication, the segment is here to stay.

That said, you’re probably right in thinking that LSAs will gradually supplant Diamonds, Libertys and Symphonys on the flight training ramp. The good thing about all this is that students and flight schools will have more choices. One of the bad things could be that LSAs won’t be as safe, although many of them are equipped with airframe parachutes.

We’ll be keeping a close watch on this segment and likely will update our article when some LSAs emerge at the head of the flight training market.

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Thinking About Flying
“Rethinking Risk Management” (August 2006) was a genuinely great article and should be required reading! Jeff Pardo’s “confession” that he is one to “absorb all I can about flying. When I’m not doing it, I’m either thinking about it, or reading about it” and his admonition to “...think more about flying.... reflect upon each flight...” should serve as a reminder that aviation is much more of a mental exercise than a physical one.

The single most dangerous part of an airplane is the loose nut on the seat, behind the yoke. Thank you!

Charles Nicholson
Via e-mail

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More On Glider Ratings
Thank you for publishing my previous letter (Unicom, August 2006) regarding Peter Tobin’s article (“Defeating Gravity,” June 2006) on getting the glider rating. In response to his author comments following my letter, I agree that passing a check ride for any rating restarts the BFR clock. It would seem strange to me, however, to undertake training and a check ride in a glider for the purpose of meeting the BFR requirement. However, I always recommend to my power-flying friends that glider flying is both fun and instructive and that they should give it a try.

Regarding Peter’s contention that getting really good at flying gliders (like in competition flying) takes a whole lot of work, I couldn’t agree more. However, that statement applies as well to all aircraft—it just depends on what the pilot is attempting to do.

My many years of flying jets off carriers at night and in bad weather, and trying to take out targets without being taken out myself, took every bit as much work as I now put into trying to make ever longer glider cross-country flights.

Safe flying, guys—I love your magazine.

George Strohsahl
Via e-mail


Thanks for writing back, George. Changing one or two words in that article also could have changed what we were trying to say. But we know what we meant.

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Buddying Up
The article “Staying Proficient in a Fuel-Short World” (August 2006) provided some excellent advice and our group of three pilots has already implemented many of its suggestions. We also found yet another way to lower the cost of flying while actually increasing proficiency.

About two years ago, we did a little logbook checking—along with some soul-searching—and came to the conclusion that a substantial amount of our flying involved shooting approaches at local airports to “stay current.” Certainly not a bad idea but lacking, as real proficiency is hard to obtain shooting very familiar approaches in known conditions. Then we had an idea. Suppose we could “buddy up” and fly Angel Flights to maintain proficiency?

The results have been fantastic. On a typical Angel Flight mission, two pilots share the cockpit with one serving as safety pilot while the other flies under a hood (if VFR). The patient (or companion) sits in the back and we fly to the mission’s destination, usually a field within 300 miles. Then, the pilots switch places for the return flight.

My guess is that most out there would never consider practicing approaches into BOS, PHL, CVG or IAD, but we have done them all. So, in terms of proficiency, we fly into unfamiliar fields and demanding airspace—great work to really sharpen your skills.

The article’s notes on using Microsoft’s Flight Simulator were right on point as we use it regularly to brush up on procedures before we go to a busy location. We also fly to remote fields to get patients close to home, and at these airports flying the full procedure may be the only option. Again, it’s great practice.

On an Angel Flight mission, we also get top-notch handling by ATC no matter where we fly. Just last week, a controller made a point of thanking me for the effort while giving me a vector. They become a critical part of the team and we are very grateful for the help they provide.

So far, so good, but where are the savings? First, all portions of the flight that were flown to accomplish the mission are tax deductible (check with your accountant but it’s pretty much a no-brainer). That means a savings of anywhere from 15 to 45 percent on all costs related to the flight. This includes flight legs to pick up a patient or return to base. The second savings comes in fuel costs as we are always given a significant discount on the posted price. The third savings comes in the form of waived landing fees as we never pay them, even at busy airports.

So when you add it up and compound the numbers you can save much and do some real good at the same time.

Imagine using your skills to really help someone, partnering with other pilots to really improve your skills, enjoying working with ATC and saving a ton of money. What a concept!

Steve Sargeant
Via e-mail


Good idea, Steve. We’ve had the opportunity to fly several Angel Flight missions. Readers wishing to learn more about the Angel Flight program should visit its Web site: www.angelflightamerica.org.

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A Rose By Any Other Name...
I give up. What is a “Boeing A75” (Accident Briefs, July 2006)?

M. Gardner
Via e-mail


The Boeing A75 is what you and I more commonly think of as a Stearman. According to Boeing’s Web site, the various models of this venerable biplane were originally produced by the Wichita, Kan.-based Stearman Division of the Boeing Company. Between 1936 and 1944, the company built 8584 Stearmans, in all versions, plus the equivalent of 2000 more in spares.