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The Air Force moved quickly last week to quell concerns that it would force pilots to stay in uniform beyond their agreed-to separation dates. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told an event in Washington last week that’s not currently an option to stem the exodus of pilots to the airlines. “I want to make it as clear as I possibly can. This is not something I am considering,” he said. “It’s a tool in the Secretary of Defense’s toolbag to use when we’re in a state of emergency. And we’re not in a state of emergency.” Another general mentioned “stop-loss” as an option earlier in the week and the resulting report was widely circulated.

The other option to stop the bleeding of talent is to up the ante even higher to entice pilots to stay. Those coming to the end of their contracts are now offered up to $35,000 a year in retention bonus but Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, deputy chief of staff for operations, said that might have to be increased. "We're going to work the retention issue hard," Nowland told the Air Force Times. "The key is we've got to work with Congress and talk to Congress as we do it, but continue to work with Congress to up that retention bonus as we look to retain guys in the future."

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The union representing Jet Airways pilots has ordered its Indian pilots to refuse to work with non-Indian pilots and has demanded the airline fire all non-native cockpit crew. Jet has about 100 non-Indian captains (who are presumably also in the union) and the National Aviators’ Guild is demanding they be purged from the airline. According to the Times of India, the union says there are plenty of Indian pilots looking for work and while non-Indian pilots have their uses when new aircraft are introduced, they should be fired when indigenous pilots are up to speed. It’s been 15 years since Jet introduced a new type. ”We feel the management has had more than enough time to replace the expats with Indian national pilots. We therefore demand that all expats be released immediately,” the union said in a statement. The exclusivity provisions begin May 1 but the union said all training and currency activity involving non-Indian pilots was to stop April 16. The airline has rejected the demands at all levels.

In a statement, the airline said Jet Airways “is an equal opportunities employer” and is “diverse in race, gender, caste, creed or religion ... Jet Airways is committed to offer equal opportunities to all pilots and follows a structured plan for their recruitment based on business outlook.” The union also cited a confrontation between a non-Indian pilot and a wheelchair passenger whose personal chair was incorrectly loaded as baggage. The passenger claimed the pilot was aggressive and abusive toward him because retrieving the chair caused a departure delay, but it did not directly explain what his nationality had to do with the fracas. "The safety of our passengers and pilots is of prime importance and these kind of issues cannot be tolerated at all,” the union statement said. “The expats are also a huge drain on the company's and the nation's finances."

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United Airlines pilots and their families are chiming in on the public relations disaster that befell the airline last week when a Louisville doctor was dragged violently from his seat off a plane after refusing to be bumped. The United Master Executive Council, which represents the airline’s 12,500 pilots, said its members are “infuriated” by the event. However, the union statement also points out that other than the paint job on the aircraft and the branding on the tickets, the incident actually had nothing directly to do with United. Dr. David Dao reportedly suffered a concussion and broken nose and lost two teeth when he was hauled out of his seat on a Republic Airlines aircraft (operating as United Express) by employees of the Chicago Department of Aviation. “No United employees were involved in the physical altercation,” the statement reads. “Social media ire should properly be directed at the Chicago Aviation Department." United announced Sunday that it had changed its policy to require traveling crew members to check in at least an hour before the flight so no seated passenger can ever be bumped to accommodate them.

The MEC statement doesn’t discuss the airline policies and staff actions that led to the “grossly inappropriate response” and says the “event was an anomaly and is not how United or the police are expected to treat passengers when there is no security threat.” A widely circulated post from Angelia A. Griffin, the wife of a United pilot who writes a blog called The Pilot Wife Life, pointed out that accommodating the four crew members who were bumping the paying passengers was actually required by a federal law aimed at ensuring flight crews are in place to keep the system functioning. She also laid some blame at the feet of Dao, who refused to comply with the direction of federal enforcement officers. In her criticism of Dao she incorrectly said the violent incident occurred after Dao had already been escorted from the plane and had illegally returned to his seat. Video of him returning to the aircraft was shot after he had been dragged away, not before.


While military aircraft boneyards are nothing new, the YouTube display of the hulks of some ex-Navy fighters in an undeveloped area of Temple, Texas, may be causing some concerns at the Pentagon. A video has emerged of the scattered remains of two F-14 Tomcats and an F-4 Phantom. The aircraft have been stripped of just about everything that can be carried away but exactly how they ended up on private property is the subject of much online speculation. According to a Google Earth image, there is a scrap metal dealer nearby but the aircraft parts are not in their yard.

The F-4 was a gate guard at NAS Dallas in Grand Prairie, according to Navy records, but the F-14s are a little more mysterious, given the history of the type’s decommissioning. When the Tomcats were retired in 2006, the Pentagon ordered them cut up so parts didn’t end up on the black market and find their way to Iran, a former U.S. ally that still operates F-14s. The size of trees growing up through the various components suggests they’ve been there for decades.


After first demoing the concept in 2015, Innovation Solutions and Support (IS&S) announced they’re one step closer to bringing an autothrottle to the single-engine turbine PC-12. IS&S says the FAA has granted the Supplemental Type Certificate for their integrated PC-12 flight deck and that new avionics package includes compatibility with the IS&S autothrottle system. The FAA says, if approved, the IS&S PT6 autothrottle will be the first certified autothrottle system in a turboprop airplane. The FAA released proposed special certification conditions for the autothrottle in a regulatory filing Friday, since there is no existing basis for certifying an autothrottle in a Part 23 airplane.

IS&S says the autothrottle will provide pilots with turbulence penetration auto speed, airspeed hold, under- and over-speed envelope protection, automatic torque control and engine temperature protections. In addition to compatibility with the autothrottle upgrade and other flight deck basics like electronic flight bag and synthetic vision, the retrofit avionics package will give operators access to RNP 0.3 approaches to get into some of the most world’s most challenging airports. Although not a household name for most pilots, IS&S has been making high-end avionics since the late 1980s when it was selected to provide its digital fuel quantity indicators for the A-10, DC-10, DC-9 and KC-10. IS&S makes retrofit avionics for the Lockheed-Martin C-130, Boeing 757/767 and McDonnell Douglas MD-90, among others.


Austro’s 180-HP diesel and Jet-A burning AE330 has received EASA approval to extend time between overhaul to 1,800 hours based on the engine’s operating history. Jurgen Heinrich, Managing Director of Austro Engine and Diamond Aircraft Austria, said, “Austro Engine products have proven their outstanding capabilities in versatile operation profiles all over the globe, generating countless stories of success for our partners. On a retrospective view, we are certainly proud of having set entirely new standards in engine reliability, quality and operational efficiency for our customers, whose appreciated involvement in continuous product and service improvements have been vital and the key to success.”

Diamond first started delivering AE330-powered DA62s with a TBO of only 1,000 hours, leaving customers to hope Diamond’s goal of a 2,400-hour TBO would come before TBO on their airplane. The AE330 is based on a Mercedes automotive diesel and is closely related to the AE300 used on Diamond Aircraft’s DA40NG and DA42. In cruise flight, each AE330 burns about 6 gallons of Jet-A per hour, significantly less than a comparably sized, traditional 100LL-burning engine. Diamond Aircraft told AVweb they expect a normal overhaul on the AE330 to be "just slightly above the overhaul costs on the AE300," which is about $25,000, so this extension saves operators of the DA62 around $22 per flight hour in overhaul costs. The TBO extension also applies to aircraft operating under FAA rules.

UPDATE: A previous version of this article stated that Diamond estimated the overhaul costs on the AE330 would be around $25,000. Diamond had actually told AVweb they would be just slightly more than $25,000.

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In its March 2017 issue, our sister publication Aviation Consumer ran an article with guidance on the interesting challenges of buying and owning antique and classic airplanes—and will be following it up in the next few months with a similar piece on warbirds. We have been watching the process of old airplanes changing hands and being flown by a younger generation of pilots. We think that is a good thing, because antiques and classics have a certain panache to them and are literally flying pieces of history—we are glad they continue to be loved. Of associated concern is that we are also observing that pilots trained on modern airplanes sometimes do not realize how easy airplanes built from the 1950s on are to fly and experience culture shock when they discover that older airplanes require more work and finesse to fly well.  Sadly, some don’t catch on fast enough and yet another classic is written off to an avoidable oops.

We have spent some time flying older airplanes, and much more listening to the wisdom of our betters about those machines and have boiled down what we’ve learned into a series of suggestions.

The most repeated theme in all of our interviews with operators of classic airplanes and instructors who were checking us out in them was that old airplanes have quirks, behaviors and systems that simply do not exist in modern airplanes. We agree with what we were told repeatedly: the worst thing a modern airplane pilot can do is try and jump into an old airplane and fly without spending some time with an instructor who knows the machine.


We’ll look at legalities up front. It is a simple fact that a pilot may have to have flight instruction and receive a logbook endorsement before acting as pilot in command of an older airplane. This little requirement is too often overlooked, until the ramp check or the insurance claim. For your peace of mind, make sure you jump through the legal hoops with older airplanes.

Does the airplane have a tailwheel? Under FAR 61.31(i) the pilot must have a checkout from a flight instructor that includes specific pilot operations and get a logbook endorsement unless he or she has flown as PIC of a tailwheel airplane prior to April 15, 1991.

The World War II primary trainers such as the Boeing Stearman or Waco UPF-7 were built to teach people how to fly, were pretty forgiving and cruised at less than their cockpit decibel level but still have a minimum of 220 horsepower up front. That means the pilot must have a high-performance checkout under FAR 61.31(f) or have flown as PIC of an airplane with more than 200 horsepower prior to August 4, 1997. (The grandfather date for tailwheel is not the same as for high-performance or complex aircraft.)

A technicality? I wonder whether your insurance will cover you should you have an accident when you were not legal to fly the airplane as PIC. Few policies penalize minor FAR violations anymore; however, not meeting FARs to be PIC might cause some claims handler to raise his eyebrows at you.

The complex aircraft checkout requirement of FAR 61.31(e) may affect you if you have not flown as PIC of an aircraft with retractable landing gear, flaps and a constant-speed propeller prior to August 4, 1997. You may need some dual and an endorsement.

What about recent experience to act as PIC? If the airplane has a tailwheel, the landings in the previous 90 days must be to a full stop per 61.57(c), not the touch-and-goes allowed for nosewheel airplanes.

A large proportion of classic and antique aircraft have tailwheels. It was cheaper to build the airplane that way and it allowed operations from unimproved fields. As a result, tailwheel airplanes are the ones with "conventional" landing gear. Some of the considerations involved with flying these machines were addressed in a series of AVweb Features over the last few years including an introductionthe checkout and three-point versus wheel landings

Okay. Recommending a good checkout does not exactly require deep thought. It is also ignored far too often and the accident rate for pilots new to a type of airplane, particularly an old one, is painfully high. It is more than a matter of switch placement. Some older airplanes have performance peculiarities that can kill you if you walk into a corner of the envelope ignorant of their existence. For example, on any number of older airplanes, attempting to use the ailerons to pick up a low wing at close to stall speed may result in aileron reversal. That is, applying left aileron will cause the airplane to roll right. Sometimes vigorously. The reason is the simple lack of aerodynamic knowledge at the time the airplane was built and the descending aileron stalls that section of the wing. Not being aware of that fact can result in an attention-grabbing event for the pilot new to old airplanes. Rule of thumb if you stall an older airplane and a wing drops—pick it up with the rudder, keep the ailerons neutral.


Older airplanes do not follow modern certification rules on switch positions or operation of their systems. For example, fuel systems can be incredibly complex on even small, single-engine airplanes. For example, not knowing which valves to move and when on something as modest as an Aeronca Chief can result in dumping several gallons of fuel on the ramp. Flying without first doing one’s homework and knowing the airplane's systems cold—especially the fuel system—can be asking for trouble. The well-known, experienced warbird pilot Jeff Ethell apparently made his final error with a fuel system of the P-38 of a model that was different than the one he was used to flying. He unwittingly ran a tank dry under conditions in which he could not restart the associated engine. Before you get in, know where all the fuel tanks are in the airplane and how to get at all the fuel in the airplane, where any return fuel from a fuel-injected engine goes so you don’t overfill a tank (early Bonanzas return fuel to the left tank, Cessna 310s return fuel to the mains only), and how to shut off all of the fuel to the engine(s) should you desire. Does the fuel selector handle function by pointing the long or short end at the detent? Is the electrical system 12- or 24-volt? Does it matter? Why? How does it work in an emergency? How much oil does the engine hold? What is the minimum amount?

The older the airplane, the more likely the systems are to have a design philosophy that is unfamiliar and very probably counterintuitive to you. It is wise to have a good working knowledge of the systems when something goes south in flight rather than to try and puzzle things out under stress.

Have you ever flown an airplane equipped with a stick? You will find you are now using your left hand on the throttle rather than your right. It is not a big change, but it still takes from 30 minutes to three hours to become comfortable. This is not one of the big challenges in transition; however, it does add to the workload and must be considered when checking out in that lovely old Super Cruiser you just bought.

Draining Water From The Tanks

Figure out how to go about it. It can be difficult in antiques and classics as they may not have quick drains in tank and fuel system low points and getting water out may require dedicated effort. The most common cause of water in the fuel is leaking fuel caps (not condensation in the tanks, as that is so minor as to be almost completely ignored). If the airplane is parked outside and it does not have "umbrella" style fuel caps or caps that do not seal well, every rainy day is doing your fuel quality a disservice. Be sure you know how to drain the low point of your fuel tanks. All of them. If there is a tank you cannot drain completely, keep that in mind when deciding to select it. Pick a portion of flight where you have the altitude to deal with a balky engine should that tank have a slug of water in it. If you have any doubt about being able to get the water out of a tank, get a mechanic involved before flying the airplane.

A number of the airplanes built in the 1910s through the 1930s had very small rudders and vertical stabilizers. The idea was to reduce drag as much as possible. Take a look at a picture of a Fokker Trimotor and the tiny rudder available. Manufacturers could get away with the practice because very few airports had runways, simply being open fields, so takeoffs and landings were made into the wind. Believe it or not, a lot of those airplanes were not designed to handle crosswinds. It also made many of the airplanes neutrally stable in yaw. While flying along the pilot can push a rudder pedal until the ball is completely to one side of the race. On letting go of the rudder, the airplane will continue to fly sideways, making no effort to straighten itself out. The concept that the pilot must take action to keep the tail behind the rest of the airplane in flight takes a degree of adjustment. It also means that crosswind landings can be more than a little exciting—and in some cases impossible.

While the principles of lift, thrust, drag and gravity were figured out fairly early, the idea that the controls could be harmonized took more advanced aerodynamics than many of the designers could muster. The Beech Staggerwing was one of the first airplanes to get rudder, aileron and elevator harmonized reasonably well. Before that, the rudders were often terribly light, the ailerons heavy, and the elevators somewhere in the middle, with control effectiveness varying in some other fashion. Of the light aircraft, the Aeronca C-2 and C-3 were the first to have something approaching decent control harmony. The elevator and rudders are quite nice, but those airplanes set the stage for the Champs and Citabrias to have terribly heavy, relatively ineffective ailerons. For the pilot who gets to fly a C-3, keep in mind that this airplane — which does not fit between the covers of any "Joy of Flying" book — was still far better than those that preceded it.

After Richard Bach flew some of the World War I airplanes for a movie, he wrote that he was honored to fly the historic aircraft but he had to keep reminding himself of the honor because they were such awful pigs to fly.


Find out what kind of brakes the airplane has and what level of effectiveness to expect. Early airplane brakes were spotty at best. They would heat up and fade when you most needed them, particularly if you had to taxi any distance in a crosswind. Some would seemingly do nothing during much of the pedal travel, then suddenly grab and risk tipping the airplane up on its nose. Part of your checkout involves asking the person who knows the airplane about using the brakes. Part of the joys of owning some of these airplanes, such as the Boeing Stearman, are endless brake problems.

As I first tried to write the phrase "heel brakes," it came out "Hell brakes." Freudian slip. (Ok, a Freudian slip is where you say one thing but mean your mother.) Heel brakes are approximately one inch square each and are found beneath their respective rudder pedals. For the first-time pilot they shrink to one millimeter square. They take some getting used to. Do not wear hard dress shoes, high heels or cowboy boots when flying heel brakes. Appropriate footwear means being able to feel those little pedals and apply pressure to them, so sneakers or deck shoes are best. Heel brakes also vary widely in effectiveness from almost nonexistent to stop on a dime, tip the airplane up on the nose and shatter a propeller.

While working summers at an airport during my high school years, a friend of mine taxied a Grumman Ag-Cat into a pickup truck. He was moving slowly up a narrow taxiway on which someone had parked the truck. He couldn’t see anything directly forward and he couldn’t "S" turn to assist the process, plus he was busy just trying to keep the airplane on the pavement. He realized something was amiss when the engine began to run more slowly and developed a peculiar roughness. Shortly after that someone can running around a wing tip frantically signaling him to shut down. He had torn the bejabbers out of the truck bed, but only caused relatively minor damage to the prop. The problem was being unable to see around the large radial engine on the front of the ‘Cat.

Visibility on the ground varies widely on older tailwheel airplanes. The Champ, which is soloed from the front seat, is great. The Boeing Stearman, soloed from the rear seat, and sporting a radial engine, is quite blind forward. In fact, the fuselage has begun to taper toward the tail at the point where the pilot sits, so there are no lines on the side of the airplane which can be kept parallel to runway edges when seeking visual reference points to try and determine what direction the airplane is traveling. The solution? Spend some time sitting in the airplane while it is parked and get a sight picture. Park it on a taxiway, directly on the center line, then get in and see what you can see and what you can use for references. Pilots have flown airplanes that were completely blind straight ahead such as the Spirit of St. Louis and the Gee Bee Racers, so you can as well. Just take some time to sit in the airplane before you go.

While taxiing, it is perfectly acceptable—expected, in fact—to weave along the taxi route so you can see what is in front of you. Before takeoff, position the airplane so you can see down the runway before lining up. If you have any doubt about what is in front of you, take action to allow yourself to see. After one landing during his flight training, my father realized he didn’t trust the guy in the airplane ahead of him to turn off the runway, so he popped the tail up so he could see ahead. He was right. A cadet ahead had turned his Cub around on the runway and was blissfully, and blindly, taxiing back. By looking, Dad was able to take some evasive action and reduce the ensuing crash from very serious to one where he just lost his upper teeth. On takeoff, if you can’t see ahead, position the airplane at an angle so you can look over the area before lining up, then, once rolling, get the tail up so you can see. On landing, touch down as slowly as possible, then get the speed down to where you can start to "S" turn and see what is out in front.


Many older airplanes, particularly the smaller ones, do not have electrical systems and therefore lack "self-commencers." Someone has to use the Armstrong starter method to spin the propeller. Physically, it is not difficult. However, there are so many things that can go wrong that a good bit of instruction from someone who knows what to do and what to watch for is essential. It’s wise to be hesitant to take such instruction from a guy justifiably named "Stumpy."

Make sure the airplane isn’t going anywhere. That almost always means having two people for the process so that one can hold the brakes. Yes, there are rare circumstances where only one person will be involved in this process. There is never, ever, under any circumstances any reason why this process is done solo without the tail of the airplane being tied down and the main wheels chocked in some fashion. Every year, someone props his airplane by himself and it roars away to hit him or other airplanes or actually takes off.

Make sure you and the other person have a working agreement as to how the process will go and that you understand each other clearly on terminology. If you are swinging the prop and the pilot wants you to pull it through a few times with the switch off, have the pilot put the keys (if it has keys) on top of the panel where you can see them. Even then, assume the mag switch is bad and the engine is going to start. When you are ready to move the prop, call for brakes. Make sure the pilot clearly says the brakes are applied. Then, push on the prop to see if the airplane will move. If it does, you need to have a serious discussion with the pilot. Either the brakes don’t work or he doesn’t. If the brakes work, I suggest you decline the pleasure of swinging his prop because you can’t trust him.

Make sure you have a good place to stand. The ground should not be in any condition that causes you to question your footing.

Do not wrap your fingertips around the back of the blade. If the engine kicks back it’s going to hurt like crazy and you risk losing the ends of your fingers.

If you want to kick a leg up and then use its leverage as it drops to help spin the prop, fine. Just make sure that your motion is away from the airplane when the propeller is moving. A good wrist snap will help get the prop through at least one compression stroke. (There are some airplanes that require that you swing the propeller very, very slowly, so get a briefing from someone knowledgeable.) Continue moving away from the airplane until the prop stops turning. If it didn’t start you can start moving back into position only after the prop stops. If it starts, you are moving away, which is good. Continue doing so. If the engine is balky, avoid the mind-set that it isn’t going to start as you could come walking back, hands reaching for a blade, when the engine decides it is in a reciprocating mood.

Once it is running, if you are going to get in, walk around the wing and approach the door from behind. Give the propeller a very wide berth, since it is much more resistant to impact than you.

Fuel Gauges

A large number of older airplanes with multiple fuel tanks do not have a gauge for each one. Often a gauge only reads the quantity of fuel in the tank selected. This means that you need to know how (if it is possible) to get a fuel quantity reading for tanks that are not in use. Many times, this means moving a toggle switch or actually changing tanks. Changing into an empty tank causes that loud silence we pilots love so much, so a careful preflight should include figuring out how much fuel is in each tank. Of course, keeping track of what has been burned from where in flight is a must.

If the FAA were to enforce the regulations that are on the books, we would spend a fortune trying to make fuel gauges work (if it is in the airplane it is supposed to work). In real life, we don’t generally trust the gauges, which is wise. With older airplanes, pilots who have survived, look in the tanks before takeoff to see how much fuel is really there. They also know that if a gauge starts moving rapidly toward empty during flight, it does not mean the gauge is faulty, but that they are losing fuel from that tank, and they act accordingly.

The ability of older airplanes to withstand a crash varies greatly. Shoulder harnesses are the single most effective add-on you can make to them. If you chose to fly airplanes that have the fuel tank directly behind the engine, do not wear nylon clothing. The post-crash risk of fire is high on those airplanes. Being in or near fire in nylon clothing means your clothes will melt onto your body and greatly exacerbate any burns you receive. Look over the airplane from the standpoint of how it can be expected to withstand impact and plan accordingly.

Research the parts catalogue for your airplane to see if they were offered as an option. Few people seem to be aware that Cessna offered shoulder harnesses as an option for all seats (not just the front) for virtually all of its single-engine airplanes from about 1946 on. It has been known to sell the kits for installation of the harnesses at cost, with no markup. I watched rear seat shoulder harnesses being installed in a Cardinal. It took about 15 minutes, since the hardpoints were already in the aircraft structure when it left the factory.

Instrument Locations

The standard "T" instrument panel arrangement we are accustomed to—with the airspeed indicator in the upper left-hand corner and the attitude indicator in the center of the top row—did not come about until 1968, and was a major safety improvement. Before then, instrument installation seemed almost random. This creates problems, particularly on takeoff, when you try to glance at the airspeed indicator and you can’t find it. It also means more head-down time in the cockpit in airplanes that may have poor in-flight visibility, something you don’t need.

The solution is to go back to a technique that was used when these airplanes were new: Sit in the cockpit with your eyes closed and make sure you can touch each switch, knob, lever and instrument from memory before you fly the airplane. It works, it doesn’t cost anything and it will make your flight much more enjoyable.

Some older airplanes are drag incarnate. With flying and landing wires, struts, braces, a flat frontal area and other delights, they come down like greased sewer covers when an engine quits. This means additional work in your checkout to get a feel for how they behave after an engine failure. It also means you may need to get used to lowering the nose very abruptly if the engine quits in a climb (it may require briefly inducing negative g, otherwise the airplane will stall.

The published best angle of climb speed for older airplanes is usually accurate. It is often also so slow that if the engine quits below 50 feet above the ground, it is physically impossible to get the nose down and flare without breaking the landing gear. Newer airplanes allow for this and have a published Vx that allows for a successful landing if the engine quits. You may want to add 5 mph or so to Vx to give you a little extra margin of safety on your short field takeoff practice.


Ask a lot of questions about any older airplane you are going to fly. For example, the Cessna 195 has a long-period phugoid (nose up and down) oscillation in level flight which you cannot damp and will drive you nuts if you do not expect it. Also, the Ercoupe will not stall because the elevator cannot be deflected up enough to reach the critical angle of attack. This means the airplane has a "minimum speed." At idle power and full aft elevator, that is the slowest the airplane will fly. It is usually around 60 mph. If you come down final at minimum speed, power off, you simply cannot flare the airplane. You will do serious damage to it unless you add power or, if altitude permits, accelerate. A final example: The Seabee has some of the loveliest manners on the water of any flying boat, but it is allergic to boat wakes. In addition, any side load on a sponson will take it off the airplane right Johnny now.

So, ask about the quirks. Learn the systems and you can have a ball flying some delightful older airplanes and even drawing a crowd at the next fly-in breakfast. If you know the systems and respect the airplane, the crowd you draw will be the admiring kind. If you just jump in and go, the crowd may be drawn to your wreckage.

Rick Durden holds a CFII and ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation and is the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 & 2. 

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What a difference a year makes.

A year ago, almost to the day, we were excoriating Icon for its lopsided buyer contract that made draconian sound like an upgrade. In the midst of a beat down by the press, Icon circled the wagons at Sun ‘n Fun, conducted tight-lipped interviews, if any at all, and finally re-engineered the buyer agreement.

The year-to-the-day part came two weeks ago when the company had its first accident, or least the first significant one that we know about. Operating in Biscayne Bay off Miami, the aircraft had a hard landing and either shipped water or breached the hull and sunk up to the wings. No injuries. What’s different is that Icon reached out to us with a brief statement explaining the accident so we wouldn’t have to chase them down for the inevitable no comment or the usual enervating spin. Or be tempted to quote an Icon-hating source.

Note to companies: If whatever you do is about to hit the news cycle or already has, that’s the best way to tamp it down and get it out the news cycle as quickly as possible. United Airlines, take note.

In the news comment section, someone cracked: “So much for Icon training.” Tough crowd. Icon said the accident was its first in about 3500 hours of flying. So what does it mean? Absolutely nothing, other than this: If you fool around in boats that fly, you’ll eventually screw up a landing, hit an obstruction in the water or otherwise spooge something and you’ll sink one. Welcome to reality. No amount of training, no matter how perfect, will change that. When the type has 10 times as many hours, we’ll know more about its accident pattern. For now, it looks like par.

Is it news? Of course it’s news. In the same way we covered the early rash of Cirrus crashes was news. When a company throws down and says it’s going to change everything, we’re going to pay a lot more attention than if they just introduce another “exciting” white-painted airplane with a panel full of virtual reality. Once Cirrus beat back the accident rate, we covered that, too. Now we don’t cover Cirrus crashes unless there’s video of the CAPS deployment, and even that has become passé.

On a darker note, it has now been 631 days since I have not been allowed to fly in an Icon A5.

Gyrocopter Guy Two Years Later

What a difference two years makes.

Yes, it has been two years since the whacky postman, Doug Hughes, caused another Washington &^%fit by landing his gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn, thereby becoming a graying American Mathias Rust.

At the time, I was outraged that he was so self-centered as to risk damaging the entire aviation community for his own narrow interests of highlighting political dysfunction by delivering 535 letters lamenting the infusion of big money into politics. Like many, I thought that maybe he shoulda just mailed the stupid letters. On the other hand, this sort of theater has been a durable feature of American politics and, in a way, is what a pluralistic democracy should be about. It occasionally features harmless civil disobedience.

Aye, I’ve mellowed. A recent story in Politico updated the Hughes story and noted that he was sentenced to four months in a federal slammer and served three, followed by a stint in a halfway house to ease his reintegration back into society. If that part sounds just slightly risible, consider this: When a fellow inmate asked Hughes what he was in for, he replied “illegally parking of a gyrocopter at the Capitol building.” Well, it was a little more than that, but not much more. That it came to that shows how paranoid we’ve become about terrorism juxtaposed with things that fly.

Why the United Story Won't Die

What a difference a week makes. Or doesn’t.

The United Airlines story about removing a passenger by force did not, as many predicted, die overnight. It remained above the fold all week and we’re running yet another story today. Predictably, the third, fourth or fifth evolutions now have United disowning Republic Airways, which operated the flight under United’s flag. This week, ALPA fired off a press release rightfully deploring the fact that a passenger was treated so poorly, but couldn’t resist a “but it wasn’t us” rejoinder, noting that neither United nor its ALPA-member pilots were involved.

In my view, this is the sort of buck passing that tends to keep the ember of such stories smoldering. My view is that the sooner you own it unconditionally, the sooner you can mend the PR damage. (See Icon, above.) It took United CEO Oscar Munoz four days to get there, but he eventually did and said it should never have happened. Period. And that it won’t again.

In my view, that this story continues to reverberate is emblematic of the frustration people feel in being treated so poorly as customers, and not just by the airlines. Modern business is festooned with scam offers, bait-and-switch pricing and fine-print contracts with hidden charges. The airlines’ usurious $200 change fee is just a visible example.

To sample public opinion on this, I read news columns and blogs until my eyes glazed over. One feature of these was consistent and especially dispiriting. By my rough score keeping, between 10 and 20 percent of people think the passenger deserved the beating he got. In other words, failing to give up his seat was righteously paired with a concussion and a broken nose. I suspect you’ll see a similar percentage in the AVweb poll we’re running this week. Pardon me, but that lack of perspective strikes me as being worse than the event itself. I’d hate to see the punishment these folks would dole out for something serious.

Still, I think United actually has an opportunity here. It consistently rates at the bottom or near the bottom for customer service and this sort of traumatic event can serve as a pivot point to turn things around. Judging by reaction and notes from United employees, they are proud, dedicated people rightfully appalled by what happened on that aircraft. If Munoz is smart—and he’s supposed to be—he’s got a rare opportunity to forthrightly lead in the right direction.

Now we can wait to see if a year makes any difference.


At Sun 'n Fun 2017 in Lakeland, Florida, Maule Air was showing updated versions of its M-series aircraft, including the M4-180V S2, which is equipped with a 180-HP Lycoming O-360 engine, has Maule's signature cargo doors and is priced just shy of $200,000. In this video, Aviation Consumer editor Larry Anglisano took a look at the aircraft with Brent Maule.

Picture of the Week <="228865">
Picture of the Week

Our friends at FLYER Magazine in the U.K. earn honors this week with a beautiful glassy water landing by Chester Lawson's Grumman Widgeon on Lake Ashby in Florida. Joe Fournier took the photo, which we expect will be in the magazine later this year. Nice shot.


Some years ago I was flying into a very congested London Heathrow Airport when I heard the following exchange with Heathrow Approach.

Heathrow: ”Speedbird 123, what is your position in the hold at Lambourne?"

Speedbird:  "We are just turning outbound at flight level 200."

Heathrow:  "Roger, Speedbird, could you possibly cross Lambourne inbound at 3000 feet?" 

Speedbird:  "Roger, I could probably make that, but I doubt if I could take my aircraft with me."


John Marshall 


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