On February, 23, 2013, we had an airport open house at the Venice, Fla., Municipal Airport. It was a beautiful day, with a great turnout of people and airplanes, and a mix of aircraft ranging from LSAs to jets. Some attendees got more than they bargained for, however.


That occurred when a pilotless Piper Malibu roared out of its parking spot, across a taxiway and into a ditch. The aircraft and its owner were not taking part in the open house, though many people including pilots and visitors got to watch. It was fortunate the airplane hit the ditch since the opportunities to cause not only breathtaking damage to other aircraft but also loss of life were huge. It also was fortunate the Malibu was parked outside of and pointed away from our display and visitor area.

Who would have thought one turn of a blade on a Continental-powered Malibu would fire it up? Fire it up with apparently full or nearly full throttle, switch on, mixture in, not tied down or chocked?

My purpose in writing is to ask you to follow up and report on this near tragedy. Many pilots think you can only prop off a small engine like that in a Cub. Well, many of the pilots and visitors to our open house would tell you otherwise.

Paul Hollowell
Venice, Fla.

Obviously a close call, and we’re glad no one was injured. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in either the NTSB or FAA accident/incident databases on this event. Mike Hart’s article in our March issue, “No Electrics? No Problem!” included a sidebar on hand-propping and his cover story in our April issue dived into this topic in much greater detail.

It’s clear the Malibu driver forgot two of Mike’s three hand-propping rules.

Twin Training Great article (“Five Twin Training Tips,” March 2013) by Mr. Fields. He has the right attitude for increasing his odds of remaining alive when flying a twin. There was an error in the VMC sidebar: VMC is based upon the inoperative engine windmilling, not feathered and not set for zero thrust. The VMC demonstration should be performed with the critical engine windmilling.

Daniel Herr
Murray Hill, NJ

Of Towers And Safety While I can understand some folks would rather downplay the consequences of the regrettable and irresponsible actions that the FAA is taking around this “sequester” situation, I think saying “many airports can get along quite nicely—depending on the facility, better—if the tower isn’t in operation” (“Sequestered,” Editor’s Log, April 2013) is ridiculous and misleading.


Is every single tower needed? Certainly not. But a look at the closing list includes key facilities that help keep GA pilots safer in congested and busy airspace. Instead of expressing outrage, or insisting that other less dangerous means be found to cut FAA costs, yet another publication goes on record as throwing up its hands without a fight.

Of course, the PIC is and will continue to be responsible for his aircraft and passengers, towers or no towers, but all that infrastructure was put in place to help avoid problems, provide an added safety edge and help make flying a viable, valuable and attractive travel option.

All pilots better be seriously considering the impact of this action and other issues on their flying procedures and habits, but can we please see some pushback and anger at this assault on our freedom to fly by a dysfunctional government? Can anyone doubt at this point that GA is in jeopardy?

Hank Kelly
Via e-mail


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