VFR On Top


just want to correct something in your “IFR Rules, VFR Tools” article (August 2022). On page 10 in the blue box, it says, “Of course, you must fly no lower than the published MEA or MOCA.”

Actually, one of the advantages of VFR on top is to be able to fly lower than the MEA or MOCA. You can get this if you request VFR on top at a VFR altitude and add the phrase “and I’ll be responsible for my own terrain clearance.”

This is one of those things, like contact approaches, that you must request. It will never be suggested to you.

One other tidbit. After being denied VFR on top several times in Canada, I asked the controller why he could not approve it. The answer he gave me was simple: Canada does not do VFR-on-top clearances.

Ed Mashman – Via email

Thanks for the clarification!


In “Surviving Windshear” (October 2022), Ryan Motte has stated that with a sudden headwind, a lower power setting will be required to maintain glidepath. Actually the opposite is true. With a strong headwind, the reduced groundspeed will require a higher power setting to maintain a lower rate of descent. With a reduced headwind or tailwind, a lower power setting is required to maintain a higher rate of descent. 

Allen Jones – Via email

Yeah, you’re right. We know better, and that one somehow slipped through the cracks. Thanks for keeping us honest!


With reference to Captain Speaking’s “Mountain Flying 101: A Close Call” (September 2022), I have some firsthand experience with this. We flew into Stehekin in my 1964 Mooney M20E years ago. We also flew in another time with my C180J on floats and stayed at The Landing with the float plane tied to the dock. 

First, let me congratulate the Captain’s girlfriend for exercising her veto authority. Yes, the PIC is the final authority and all that, but given that 99 percent of GA missions are primarily about having fun, as soon as someone expresses they are no longer having any, particularly after a climbing escape turn where at the beginning of the maneuver the outcome was uncertain, take them somewhere to relax and recover. 

No one expects you to thereafter endlessly submit to a lifetime of self-imposed denigration and flagellation for a mistake, but wouldn’t this be a good time for a safety stand-down? Instead of instantaneously giving yourself a pass (whew, glad that’s over) and jumping onto a hazardous downwind? Let’s be honest, if we climb into terrain where we need to perform climbing escape turning maneuvers, we’ve already accepted less-than-safe strategies. 

Despite all of my training and credentials, my own aeronautical experience is not without some questionable aeronautical decision-making. When I first flew in to Stehekin, the state DOT page had more to say than it does now, including that, winds permitting, you should land to the north and depart to the south. When I departed, I knew there was some intermittent, light and variable winds out of the north, but when we finally started our takeoff run, it obviously must have gusted. We barely got out of there.

Obviously, depending upon performance and maneuvering limitations, there is room to depart to the north, which I have successfully done since, but I don’t like it. We have flown in three times and hiked in six or seven. We do plan to return by air, but only under the following conditions:

1. Arrive and depart in cool early mornings in favorable winds.

2. If it’s time to go and the winds are uncooperative, extend your reservations until it’s a certainty.

Fourteen months ago, our co-owning partnership of four airplanes and 65 members lost a Cessna 172R and also lost an irreplaceable couple who left five orphans in the wake of a failed density altitude climb/turning escape near Missoula. Two days later, the same thing happened in Colorado involving twice the airplane and twice the density altitude. Here are the lessons to be learned from it:

If we didn’t accept some hazards, our lives wouldn’t be as rich as they are and airplanes would always be tied down. Edward Whymper’s advice to mountain climbers applies equally well to us: “Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”

Dan Anderson – Des Moines, Wash.

Thanks for these insights! Readers may want to check out related videos at tinyurl.com/SAF-Vid1 and tinyurl.com/SAF-Vid2. There’s also an AOPA video about a recent Bonanza crash near Aspen, Colo.: tinyurl.com/SAF-KASE.


After reading Tom Turner’s excellent article on stalls, I question even using the terminology of “power-on” stall. With the exception of a go-around situation, the typical departure stall is “power off” after an engine loss at a high angle of attack. Training for this situation involves simulating a takeoff at altitude and having the instructor pull power without warning while climbing at VX,  instilling an instinctive “push” response being the goal. In all my training, I think I had one instructor perform this with me. As Tom indicated, pulling the yoke back at full throttle until the wing stalls is not very useful training.

David Fisichella – Cape Cod, Mass.

NOT A T-38

As a retired Air Force pilot who also flew the T-38, I feel I must point out that on page 8 of Matt Johnson’s otherwise very informative article on flying the “White Rocket,” the aircraft in the lower right hand photo were misidentified as T-38s. They are actually F-5s, a single-seat version of the T-38 with more powerful engines. They were sold as air defense aircraft to many foreign government. They are also used at fighter weapons schools such as Top Gun to act as aggressors that simulate the tactics and performance of enemy fighters.

I enjoy your informative articles very much; keep up the good work.

Bob Hartmaier – Via email


I find it hard to believe that former T-38 instructor Matt Johnson actually claimed the “Migs” in the original Top Gun movie were T-38s. Looking at the photos accompanying the article, one can plainly see that the Top Gun “Migs” are single seaters, with a completely different and smaller canopy line than the two-seat T-38. The Top Gun planes were likely F-5s, a Northrop fighter variant with the same or similar layout to the T-38. (They also could have been later F-20s, but far more F-5s were produced.)

Jim Ellis – Harvard, Mass.

Thanks, guys! Don’t blame Matt, though. Call it a production error.


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