Monday, August 15, 2016

Switching FBO's and a New Airplane!

     Flash back to 2010, and I was a 13-year-old boy who was absolutely in love with aviation. I was heavily involved in flight simulators and the online community that surrounded it. My parents recognized this deep interest in aviation, so they brought me to a local grass strip for an airplane ride. As if I did not already have a passion for flying, my interest spiked further. Following this first ride in Piper Cub, I went on to solo on my 16th birthday and eventually earn my Private Pilot License in a C172H. Those years of training and countless hours of flying took place at Red Stewart Airfield(40I) in Waynesville, OH and I absolutely loved it.

     Despite the genuine, good-natured, and friendly people at the airport...Despite the knowledge, passion, and community I saw there...there was always one thing that made me feel some level of discomfort. By lack of surprise, it was the airplanes Red Stewart had to offer. The following is the current fleet of the flight school and associated prices.

  • N77500 - 1946 Piper J-3 Cub 65hp
  • N98286 - 1946 Piper J-3 Cub 85hp
  • N1798E - 1946 Aeronca Champ 7BCM
  • C150
  • C150
  • N2814L - 1967 Cessna 172H
  • N9080L - 1970 Citabria 7KCAB
  • N3701T - 1967 Piper Arrow PA-28R
  • N510N - 1941 Boeing Stearman PT-17
  • Taylorcraft
     From that list, I certainly find it troubling that the airport does not own a single airplane newer than 1970. A fleet that consists of nothing less than 46 years old is not a solid basis to build a reputable business off of. Despite this, in my head I always had faith in the airport's mechanics and therefore the condition of the their aircraft. Perhaps it was my young age and sense of invulnerability associated with that, but in retrospect I am troubled by the thought of flying some of Red Stewart's aircraft confidently. I can clearly remember that almost every flight there was always some type of issue with the airplane of choice that day. The transponder, the brakes, the radios, the push-to-talk, the battery, the starter, the fuel gauge... there was always something wrong and often it was glossed over. 

     After flying at Red Stewart Airfield for over 6 years, I finally had a moment of exigence. After returning home from a 6-week trip to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Czech Republic, I was extremely eager to fly. When doing the run-up in N77500, a 1946 Piper Cub, the engine actually quit when checking the magnetos. Perhaps I had simply counted the clicks wrong and switched the ignition to off? However, I was 99% sure I had the right magneto selected before quickly switching back to both in an attempt to save the engine. I got another prop, the engine started fairly rough, and I further analyzed the situation with an instructor onboard for good measure. Both magnetos performed fine this time, but I was told this was a known issue, but the airplane was still being flown by others. 

     Please do not misconstrue my message, but allow me to explain why I felt this was the best time to switch to a new, reputable FBO. I am well aware that Red Stewart is proud of its history as a grass roots aviation establishment. They love classic aircraft and enjoy keeping alive the tradition of taildraggers and stick and rudder skills that accompany them. However, there is a fundamental issue when maintenance can be so easily called into question and business practices ignore them. If your business cannot afford or is not willing to keep your fleet well-maintained, reliable, safe, and relatively adjusted with the current times, your business needs to change. I love the people at Red Stewart, especially my instructor, but I am simply not comfortable in their airplanes. When it comes to Aeronautical Decision Making, the pilot in command should have full faith in the reliability and safety of an airplane before ever flying it, and I will not make the irresponsible decision of putting my life or the lives of passengers at risk against my better judgment. 

     In conclusion, I have decided to relocate my future flying to Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport(MGY). More specifically, I will be renting and continuing any future flight training with Aviation Sales Inc. in their fleet of Cessna 172's that range from 1979 to 2001 C172 Ns, RGs, and SPs. I have completed my check-out there and am strongly looking forward to their modern display of professionalism, structure, and attention to aircraft maintenance.