In Response to David Miller’s “Judgment or Experience” (November)

I enjoy your column. You and Dingman are always my first reads, and if I don’t get to the rest of the magazine, that’s usually okay, although Ware was extraordinary this month. However, you passed on the perfect opportunity to use the old anecdote:

Neophyte to Senior Birdman: What quality makes you a good pilot?

Senior Birdman: Exercising good judgment, of course.

N: Well, how do you cultivate good judgment?

SB: Through experience.

N: How do you get experience?

SB: By exercising bad judgment.

It’s funny, but we both know it’s true too often. At some point you realize there are going to be lessons, despite the attempt to learn all yours from other people. One should pray that those you must learn personally will be inexpensive ones. The corollary, of course, is that there will occasionally be a recurrent training requirement for those lessons, as in experience being that which allows you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.

Don’t ask me how I know this.

But since you’re wondering, I’ll continue my catharsis. If you (not you personally, the generic “you”) follow no other rules or procedures, follow these two: 1) The bigger your hurry or that of your passengers, the slower you should be moving and 2) The last thing you MUST do before you close the door is walk all the way around the airplane. All the way around. Every time. The worse the weather, the worse the ramp condition, the further behind schedule you are, the more annoying things that have happened to disrupt/disturb your routine, the more slowly you must make this walk.

I feel better now. Keep up the good work. 



In Response to Kevin Ware’s “Only in America” (November)

I just finished your delightful article, “Only in America.” In September, I completed the grand trip in my 340 with my wife of almost 50 years, my daughter and her four-year-old son. 

I have dreamed about flying in the San Juan Islands for many years. After a grand trip west, including stops at relatives and friends after picking up Christina and Harry at MTV, we landed in Friday Harbor. Really fascinating place to be for two days. Then we went to Concord just as you did. Our purpose was a family wedding.

On to Sedona where my son’s grandfather-in-law lived for many years. His name was Harner Selvidge. If you look him up, he made many great contributions to aviation and engineering in the first half of the 20th century. After an op stop in Oklahoma where I got avgas for $3.75/gallon – less than car gas in San Francisco – we proceeded to Nashville and supper with three grandchildren and our son and daughter-in-law. From there, we returned to our home base, SMS. A long but wonderful way to get home to our two little hounds. 

I wish I could articulate our trip as well as you do because it was quite an experience. While our backgrounds are somewhat different, we both have about the same flying experience, 10,000 hours. Mine includes about 37 percent military and the rest in general aviation, including ownership of 11 different airplanes. I recently became rated as SIC in a Citation 560 and a 750X. I believe it was your article in the same magazine that spoke of the great advantages of the APU. 

Thanks for sharing your delightful experience. 

Phil Leventis


I just read your article entitled “Only in America” and wanted to express how much I enjoyed it. My family and I live in Hawaii but travel back to Alaska each summer where we keep and operate a 1953 Cessna 180. Alaska exemplifies the theme of your article, and we get to enjoy all the privileges you describe. Hawaii is not as friendly  but our customers still get to move around basically as they wish. The airspace is fine; it’s the airports that represent challenges here.

Anyway, I hope lots of people read your story. The freedom to fly the way we do is rare and precious but easily taken for granted, or in the public’s case, unknown.

Shaen Tarter


I share all of your passion for the tremendous freedoms we have in the U.S. I’m on a ferry flight from Austria to the U.S. now and write this after I’ve dealt with the fiasco that exists in any other airspace than the U.S. I had the same thoughts as you, but you articulated it better than I ever could have. It was a well-written, meaningful and excellent article. You are a very good writer. Thanks for doing what you do!

Joe Casey

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