Piper Flyer Association - Technical Know-how, Serious Fun read more

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    The Best Entry-Level Pipers

    Longtime Piper pilot and Piper twin owner Kristin Winter discusses the cream of the crop in entry-level Piper aircraft. (Photo: James Lawrence)

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    Short Wing Pipers

    Out of a poor economy came a series of aircraft that were better than expected. (Photo: Peter Lubig)

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    The Piper Navajo

    After initially feeling intimidated by the size of the Navajo, contributing editor Kristin Winter found that it really one of the easiest and most gentle aircraft she had flown. (Photo: Paul Bowen)

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  • "...nothing can replace the skill and confidence you get using spare training time to do weird things."

    - Kevin Garrison

  • "It costs fuel to carry fuel in any airplane..."

    -Thomas Block

  • "All of the PA-28-180/181 aircraft are great airplanes."

    - Kristin Winter

  •   "My happy place is metal and T-shaped and smells like 100 octane"

    - Kevin Garrison


It’s gratifying to see that the majority of respondents (58%) have not had a bad experience with ATC, but some of those that did had rather hair-raising experiences.

Here are some of the comments:

• Only 1 in 65+ years of flying!: On VFR "River" approach to DCA (Washington National) many years ago, in a Debonair, I was turning the dogleg onto final for Rwy 19, at about 200' AGL when ATC asked me to do a 360 to provide time for a jet behind me to land on Rwy 15. While I suppose I could have refused, citing the safety of a 360 at 200', I thought the lesser of two evils was to do the 360. As a sidelight, upon the jet's touchdown, ATC directed the jet to turn onto a particular taxiway or go "all the way to the end." The jet PIC said, "Unnh; how about if I turn right here, and he turned onto my runway 19. Pissed, ATC instructed him to exit 15 "immediately -- landing traffic behind you" into a "penalty box" where he kept the jet until I taxied all the way to the GA FBO!

• Vectored off course near landing @A/P w/o vectors to airport while IFR descending thru clouds.

• Surprised to find KSNA tower would not coordinate an IFR missed approached for continued flight onto another airport for instrument practice. No choice but to land and receive a new IFR clearance which took 20 minutes on the ground. Not GA-friendly.

• 30 years ago given descent to altitude well below MEA, but corrected quickly; 3 years ago issued TEC appropriate for jet/turboprop instead of prop, ultimately corrected.

• Rude controller who was in a panic mode handling numerous traffic requests.

• Only one time. Seems they forgot about me and when I finally realized that I hadn’t heard from them in a long time and called them they sent me direct with apologies.

• Yes, but they are outweighed by the number of bad experiences ATC has had with me.

• Just in general a poor attitude and it felt like “ why are you bothering me for that” . I also hear the communication from time to time between pilots and ATC that’s unacceptable and not professional. So with my last incursion with ATC I refuse to communicate with them and fly VFR only.

• Last minute complicated changes to IFR flight plan in unfamiliar areas.

• Tried to "force" me to land at an airport with a strong tailwind. I requested to circle to land on another active runway and was denied. Went around and it took another 30 minutes to get me back to the airport after they flipped it around. My other pet peeve. Tower will be asking me questions in the flare, (parking, will I make a specific turn off.) when I don't respond they get upset.

• Flying into Bellingham, WA from the NE, I was handed off to tower, who directed me to a right downwind for runway 18. From my position I would have had to climb above traffic pattern, overfly the airport for a left 270 to enter that pattern. There was a stack of aircraft on extended final and I was headed right for them. I did a 180, reported to tower who handed me back to approach. Approach chuckled that I was aircraft who couldn't find Bellingham, I responded that I knew exactly where Bellingham was, but they apparently didn't know where I was. It got resolved without incident and I called the tower after clearing customs. They apologized that they had a trainee, and he was expecting traffic to be coming from the south, not the north, and got confused. Another instance: I was approaching Prince George from the south and had been cleared for a straight in on 33. I was on a low short final when the controller changed my clearance to a left base to 24. I asked for confirmation, and added power, made a fairly sharp right turn to 06 to enter a very short downwind for 24. Again, contact with the tower resulted in an apology because of a trainee controller.

• Denver tracon, I get they’re busy, but if you’re not a commercial airliner, you are always stuck at 1000 feet agl and vectored around and treated like an afterthought.

• Tower cleared us to land. The student was having problem with speed so I told him to go around. The controller chewed us out, saying you were cleared to land, not for the option. I told him I decide if we need to go around, not him. We were given a phone number to call, on advice of counsel I didn’t. Nothing came of it.

• patience with new pilot

• The controllers at a local airport are quite a large PITA. They bark orders at you and will be quick to bite your head off if you deviate from any even minor questions (wait for tower to contact you at the run-up area - despite waiting while idling for 15 minutes and nary a word on frequency).

• As a new pilot passing JFK I was confused and the controller was short tempered and I did not get 'flight following.' That was almost 25 years ago. Never had a problem since that one time. Pretty good percentage of ATC great service; one out of 500 is not bad record for them.

• Was in Miami and called my N Number for departure I called back and they were frustrated and told me to go. I moved for departure and another airplane was landing on the runway I was to depart from. I quickly returned to hold the position. I had to file a NAFTA report this was back in 2000.

• I just started flying after a long layoff. On a practice approach the approach controller was very agitated that we did not answer her radio calls. We were in fact answering her calls, and this information was relayed to her via another aircraft with that controller. When switching to tower, the tower was annoyed that we were holding up traffic while shooting a practice approach.

• Ignoring request.

• had ATC call me and complain I turned base without approval while i was giving clear to land number one to runway xxxx

• The controller got behind in transmissions and started transmitting continuously, not allowing responses. When he finally allowed responses he scolded the pilots and dominated the frequency again.

• My home base is an ATC training facility - it’s not unusual for them to vector me 10 miles out of the way for a commuter plane what is still 20 miles out.

• Trying to return to our home base, ATC ignored our calls. After about 30 minutes of no response, we air filed an IFR flight plan direct from our present position to the airport, about 6 miles. We were told to pick up the clearance from clearance delivery. We called and were given the clearance and then told to contact ground control. We explained that we were airborne. Controller then said contact approach control. When we stated that we had been trying to do that for the last 30 minutes and that he wouldn't respond, her response was "he'll talk to you now." Sure enough he did, but he wasn't happy. We had an interesting discussion on the ground.

• Ground Control at O'Hare Intl. They talk "so fast" this boy needed them to repeat the instructions three times, they were not happy, but I said, please forgive me, I am from Montana and we don't have that many words in our vocabulary, the controller laughed and all was forgiven...

• Got heck as a student pilot because they couldn't "read" my transponder. Transponder was fine when checked.

• Cleared approach in LAX with approach control and sent to final. They asked if we were on 24R. I said no we were on 25L as cleared. They did a good job getting me to where they wanted me

• I was on flight following in very busy airspace and handed off to LA Center. I checked in saying only “Cessna N12345 is with you” ( not my real tail number). The controller came back and berated me non stop saying that tells me nothing. He then yelled at me for several minutes about how to request flight following. I advised him I was a hand off and then there was dead silence. In retrospect I should have checked in with my call sign and altitude which might have clicked with him I was a hand off but his attitude and handling of the situation was extremely poor and disrespectful. He didn’t apologize but treated me much better when he realized what he had done.

• Had a tower controller tell me I was taxiing too fast. I was at 19kts ground speed with no people or other aircraft near me.

• They gave me the wrong runway. Then filed an action against me. When the FAA pulled the tower tapes the matter was closed.

• Approaching Reno IFR in IMC at night, in a Duke, many years ago; I had to go missed on the approach to 16R. After initially climbing straight ahead, the controller told me to turn right to a heading of 230, and climb to 8,000. I was a Reno resident, and familiar with the high mountains just SW of the field, and I realized that this heading and altitude would fly me right into Mount Rose, elevation 10,700+ feet, in just a couple of minutes. So I brought this up with the controller, and he immediately changed my heading to 320, which is what he initially meant to do. He apologized profusely for the mistake. So controllers are people too, and we can all make mistakes, but if I had not been a local, neither one of us may have caught the mistake in time - a lesson learned!

• they tried to put me at 5,000 heading west to make room for some T38s. That would have put me in possible icing and clouds. I tried to negotiate and cancelled IFR

• Not being allowed to deviate for weather until insisting.

• Exiting IMC conditions, transferred to tower, given landing instructions for a circle to land approach. I made a wrong turn, tower asked informed I was off course, I initiated a correction. Tower asked my intent I said "back to course, would you like me elsewhere?" Then another controller jumped online and began yelling at me. He asked questions like "are you IFR capable?" and "Do you know how to fly the approach?" and more. To say I was rattled is an understatement. Luckily the could base was high enough I just responded "cancel IFR, inbound with alpha". Then I was able to land.

• Filed into Houston Hobby. Requesting lower, after several attempts controller said why do you want lower now? I said because I'm over my destination and would like to land. Argument ensues over where I am filed to. Landed finally, went to tower and made them pull the tapes of filing. Seems Houston, TX controllers used to be not very helpful.


For sure winglets are very cool.
Mike Jones wont put them on my plane because I have vortex generators from BLR on the plane. Both winglet and vortex STCs dont state compatibility so he will only put on a straight wing.
My engines were overhauled with 500 hrs when I purchased, so I havent had to do anything with them. Airframe time is 2500 hrs, unusual for the PA-31 series. I was just referring to the possible costs for repowering. Hope you enjoy your new plane, great choice.