My First Airplane: What Mike Taught Me About Flyingby Steve Ells
I had been bitten by the aviation bug as soon as I joined the U.S. Navy and started sending away to the EAA for booklets on homebuilt airplanes in the mid-1960s. I still have titles such as, “Amateur Aircraft Builder’s Manual, First Volume 1959,” and “Wood, File Number 1.” After three Vietnam cruises during the three years, 10 months and 21 days I spent in the Navy, I worked my...Read more
October 2004 -
It's 7:30 a.m. and, for the second time this week, I am out at the field on my way to the office. Cabin clean: check. Oil level: check. Windshield clean: check. No, it's not my preflight checklist I'm reading through. Stepping back, I take one last look at N56041, my 1973 Cherokee 140, and, leave her behind for another day of flying without me.Believe it or not, the little Cherokee gets the best end of this deal. While...Read more
September 2004 -
Here's an airplane that has been literally turning heads for more than 40 years, and for good reason. When Piper launched the first PA-30 Twin Comanche in 1963, it was immediately obvious that this new airplane could do all the things that it was supposed to: it provided speed, efficiency and economy. In short order it was also discovered that this light twin was delivering a few more things that it wasn't supposed to, but we'll get to...Read more
Without a doubt, they're the hardest-working, most under-appreciated part of your airplane. Of course, I'm talking about your propeller.
Most of us just think of a propeller as a chunk of aluminum spinning around on the front of our airplane. How wrong we are. Your propeller is one of the most highly stressed components on your airplane. During normal operation, it has to withstand 10 to 20 tons of centrifugal force that is trying to pull the blades right off...Read more
In August, Hurricane Charley blew through Florida and into the Carolinas. That fast-moving Category Four storm cut a compact swatch of destruction across the state, effectively bringing aviation operations to a halt for a few days, and much longer at affected airports.
Just when we got a handle on that recovery effort, and the TFRs had disappeared, Hurricane Frances entered our reality. On Monday, August 30, everyone began to take him seriously. Tuesday happened to be my kid's birthday and...Read more
When Continental Motors became part of Teledyne in 1971, engineers had already been at work for several years on the first all-new General Aviation engine to be developed in decades, the Tiara.
The powerplant had relatively small displacement but a good horsepower-to-cubic-inches ratio because it developed its power at high rpms.
The engine’s unique feature was Hydra-Torque drive, a patented system that could be hydraulically locked so the camshaft drove the propeller directly, providing a 0.5 speed reduction. Its singular advantage,...Read more
Dr. Gary Schorr is a great aviation success story. I met the doctor several years back when he and I got involved with a fractional ownership of a King Air. Part of the deal was that I would teach Gary to fly.
Schorr turned out to be a great student and earned his private license flying a variety of late model aircraft that were available from the local flight school.
He passed his checkride and the aviation bug bit him hard....Read more
The Avionics Bucket List series is written to provide Piper Flyer readers with information from my observations and research about some of what is available in avionics. My hope is that with a step-by-step plan, aircraft owners will not choke writing one giant check for all the items on the list at one time. They will have a path to follow.
2020 will be here soon. Eight years is not much time to plan for major avionics changes, notably the...Read more
I ordered an Ashby fiberglass glareshield from Aircraft Spruce along with right and left windshields halves from Great Lakes Aero Products. (Yes, I decided to replace the right side windshield as well.)
FAA regulations require the supervision of an A&P mechanic for the replacement of the aircraft windshield, so I enlisted the services of my A&P father. He has been involved in almost everything that I have done to 61 Tango.
Unlike the side windows, the windshield is removed from the...Read more
Considering that Piper produced this quick-and-cheap two-seater after going bankrupt, it is surprisingly good. When the American economy went into reverse in 1947, Piper could not have been more wrong-footed. It had a huge inventory, a massive factory with too many workers and went bankrupt.
Out of necessity came a little wonder, though—the Piper Vagabond (PA-15). It was designed to be inexpensive and quick to build, to use up the stock of part-built Cubs and Super Cubs,...Read more
With 150 hp (the original had just 108 hp) Piper’s rag-and-tube nosewheel classic is a “no-worries airplane”
The M-Class series of aircraft first began as a glimmer in Piper’s eye in 1977. Piper management had set a goal of increasing its 26 percent market share to a full 50 percent. To reach this goal Piper would need to outsell its competitors—by a lot. Piper executives knew they’d have to develop a brand-new product to meet the challenge.
The market segment identified...Read more
With 150 hp (the original had just 108 hp) Piper’s rag-and-tube nosewheel classic is a “no-worries airplane”
Frank Rothera would be the first to admit that his Piper Colt has a look that is.... well, let’s say striking. “The paint scheme was the previous owner’s,” he says. “And I didn’t feel like changing it, since all the fabric and paint work had just been done when I bought the airplane.”
It seems that the previous owner was a sales representative for...Read more
In “Lost in Oscar Hotel,” J-3 pilot and author Gordon Murray chronicles “the first, longest, slowest and most peculiar flight to Wright Brothers Airport ever made in an antique airplane.”
The flight was a real world record—albeit a strange one. Yet, it was won alongside an accounting of odd discoveries; beautifully captured images by master photographer, Gary Harwood; and the spinning of flying tales.
“Lost in Oscar Hotel” reveals a hidden universe of people involved in that other kind of flying...Read more
Piper began work on a lower cost replacement for the PA-39 Twin Comanche in 1974. The “Twin Arrow”—Project 10—was headed by Grahame Gates at Piper Aircraft’s Lakeland plant.
Original specs called for what was basically an Arrow fuselage with T-tail, but using the same gross weight and 160 hp counter-rotating L/IO-2-B1A engines as the Twin Comanche C/R.
The project was moved to Vero Beach in 1975 and renamed “Light Twin.” Engines were upgraded to 180 hp to allow for an acceptable rate...Read more
“Wow!” That’s what I said after just over an hour in the left seat of N290ND, a 1998 PA-44-180 Seminole. While I already had 10 hours of multi-engine dual (mainly from the right seat) in several PA-34 Senecas a few years earlier, this was my first opportunity to practice flying a twin on one prop.
What I learned is that the Seminole is a great teacher—as Piper’s designers intended it to be.
I was a little nervous when I got to the...Read more
Here you are happily flying along, getting ready to land when you realize the carpet is bunched up under the rudder pedals. Yikes! This could be bad. It’s happened enough times to us that we wrote “Check Carpet Position” in our pre-landing checklist.
Close inspection reveals that over time, the carpet backing separated from the foam rubber padding which allows it to slide under your heels when you work the rudder pedals. Now, your old flight instructor would be proud that...Read more
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Jay Taffet is a new member of the Piper Flyer Association. He lives in Montgomery, Ala. and, like many of you, flies his Piper Arrow recreationally every weekend and sometimes on weekdays if he can justify it at work.
What may be different about Jay is that in over 2 ½ years he hasn’t paid for one drop of fuel…or insurance, maintenance, hangar, upgrades or even an overhaul.
Instead, he earns over $35,000 each year shooting aerial photography from his left-seat...Read more
Philadelphia Eagles in Superbowl XXXVIX, which was played for the first time in Jacksonville, Fla. I was there. Not at the game, at Jacksonville. This is what charter pilots do. We take people to and from special events all the time.
Since 9/11, the airspace around these large gatherings has become targets of complex and often totally non-understandable TFRs that would require a Philadelphia lawyer to interpret.
So it was that weekend. In the 16 pages of instructions that constituted the...Read more
The Piper Pawnee is a working airplane, an employee that is paid by the hour and usually does hot, dirty jobs, often seven days a week.
It’s not likely that many Piper Flyer readers have ever flown a Pawnee, but you can be sure that the experience the company gained with this tough little bird found its way into every succeeding airplane from Lock Haven and Vero Beach.
The first crop duster was actually a U.S. Army pilot, Lt. John Macready....Read more
In the wake of 9/11 and the massive government reorganization that followed, it was inevitable that some government agencies would have different rules and guidelines for defining specific operations than others.
As pilots, we are all very familiar with the FAA and the rules it publishes by which we operate our aircraft. But other government agencies don’t necessarily share the FAA’s definitions. Specifically, I am speaking about U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP.
Now if you never fly out of...Read more
Every year in April, I set off to go to the annual EAA event in Lakeland, Fla., commonly known as Sun ‘n Fun.
Armed only with a press pass and a shopping list, I work my way around the show seeking out the specific products and services I have been contemplating to purchase. Sometimes I stumble across something I hadn’t planned on looking at and other times I find myself standing at the show booth, dealing with the disappointment that...Read more
July 2005- When you take flying lessons, you learn the basics of moving an airplane on the ground. At first, you’ll help your instructor, then you’ll do the moving under his or her supervision. If your trainer is kept on a tiedown, most of what’s involved is just taxiing, but from time to time you’ll have to move the airplane without using the engine.
Where modern trainers are concerned, this is just a matter of muscle power—attach the tow bar...Read more
It’s been said everyone has a story. It’s also been said that everyone has a dream. My story has its beginning in the 1930s when my grandfather took his first plane ride in a 40-horse Cub. Lessons in the Cub followed, leading my grandfather, together with several friends, to form the Haleyville, Ala. Aero Club.
When Papa John Lakeman earned his pilot’s license, my father was his first passenger, starting a family tradition that includes a love of flying and...Read more
“…with a rising shriek, the speed began to rise rapidly and large patches of red heat became visible. The engine was obviously out of control. All the personnel went down the factory at high speed in varying directions…”
—Sir Frank Whittle, describing an early test of his gas turbine design
Today, the gas turbine is known for making high-speed, efficient flight a reality. Its output can range from a few horsepower to tens of thousands. Whether it is a turboprop or a...Read more
September 2005- The design must have been perfect, because every Piper built until 1948 used exactly the same wing. Of course, that made for good manufacturing economies, which was one of Bill Piper’s specialties.
But suddenly, the order book began to get thin. More than 50,000 civil airplanes had been built since 1945, and the government began dumping another 31,000 military surplus aircraft on the civilian market at prices even less than Bill Piper could offer.
October 2005- It is the mildest of weather conditions facing pilots, and yet it can be the most deadly. It creeps in on “little cat’s feet” but can make even the most expensive airliner or business jet go someplace else rather than face it. Like an in-law, it comes sometimes when it isn’t predicted and seems to never leave—at least, not on your schedule.
Fog doesn’t sound like much of a problem until you are flying above it, are running low on...Read more
November 2005- Let me say up front that this isn’t one of those broken-heart stories that country singers like to warble about. Nothing like that. The breakup between me and my J-3 Cub was amicable in almost every respect, with a few exceptions.
But first, you need to know about the Cub. This wasn’t your humble, garden variety, plain yellow J-3 Cub. It was a vain, short-winged, tail-wagging, attention-demanding little animal with chubby wheel pants, a hundred-horse Continental engine and a bright...Read more