Ask Pete!

by Pete Schoeninger
Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2017 issue

Q: You said an airplane can sometimes land with a little more crosswind on a grass runway than a paved runway. Why?

A: On grass runways, especially if wet, or if it has a bit of snow on it, you might slide just a little before a ground loop starts, unlike on pavement.  Also, often grass runways are sometimes wider than paved runways, and in that case you can “cheat” a little and land a little more into the wind by going slightly diagonal.

Q: Last week I bought my friend’s Cessna 310R. A week after buying it the starter on the left engine failed. I asked my friend for help in paying for the problem and he said “NO.” Isn’t he being a jerk? This issue could end a long-term friendship.

A: NO, your friend is not a jerk, not unless you have a written warranty from him, which would be very unlikely. That airplane is at least 35 years old, and maintenance is not always predictable. It’s now your airplane, and your problem. Don’t YOU be a jerk… Fix it, fly it, and enjoy a good airplane.

Q: Recently, you have discussed the “sister airplanes” to the Cessna 172 – the 172RG and Hawk XP, which were manufactured around 1980. Please comment on the Cessna 182RG, which like the others just mentioned, was only in production for a few years.

A: I thought the 182RG was one of Cessna’s best. In addition to being fairly fast, it had a large useful load, and was a good short-field airplane. (I saw one – lightly loaded – go into a 1300 ft. strip with trees on each end, come to a stop, and from that point take off without turning around. Don’t you try that, but it shows what the airplane can do when loaded very lightly.) From my experience, the 182RG operated more economically than the fixed gear version for two reasons: 1) On about the same fuel burn, it was about 10% faster, and 2) The engine was a detuned Lycoming 540, developing 235 hp at only 2400 RPMs, so they were never worked real hard and seemed to last much longer than the fixed gear versions with a different engine. But they were not perfect, every one that I flew was very loud, and the engine/prop combination used was not real smooth.

Q: I heard you say a pilot should be capable of instrument flight when going over water under some VFR conditions. Why?

A: Under an overcast sky, out of sight of land, especially with some haze, there will be times when you cannot define the horizon, so you have to be able to fly by reference to instruments. The same situation exists if you are flying at night over water out of sight of land when there is 100% cloud cover obscuring stars and the moon. It really is like flying in a black hole. Flying at night in remote regions of the country, where there are few if any lights on the ground, can also create a black hole effect.

Q: You said you ferried a few Lake Amphibians from the factory in Maine to the delivery center in Houston, but you did not have a seaplane rating. Wasn’t that illegal?

A: You can fly an amphibian with a land-only pilot certificate, but you cannot legally land or take off on water without a seaplane pilot certificate (unless it is frozen!)

Q: What is a “locking” tailwheel and why are they sometimes used?

A: Tailwheels that can be locked straight (not common on light planes) are particularly useful when taxiing in a strong crosswind or in a heavy larger tailwheel airplane to keep going straight on takeoff or landing. You align yourself with the taxiway or runway you want, then “lock” the tailwheel in place. You can turn the rudder, but the tailwheel will not turn. One other use, in a Cessna 185 you need a lot of right rudder to stay straight during the initial takeoff run, and a lockable tailwheel was an option offered on those airplanes to help keep you straight. They are common on heavy tailwheel airplanes like Twin Beechs, B-17s, DC-3s, and some others.

Q: I am about to buy a 1979 Cessna 172, but a little concerned that my trips to my relatives in another state will stretch the range (40 gallons) a little. Ideas?

A: Stop! Don’t ever stretch your range. Believe me, someday you will thank the Lord, and me (in that order) that you had extra gas onboard. Examples of problems include arriving at your destination just as the airport closes due to bad weather or a gear up landing by the guy ahead of you. Besides planning an enroute fuel stop, and limiting yourself to 40 gallons, find a 172 of similar year with 50 gallons of fuel capacity, which was installed as an option. Or, consider Piper’s Warrior, a good competitor to the 172 of the same year, and carries 48 gallons with similar overall specs as the 172. And don’t forget my favorite economical cruiser, the 172RG which carries 60 gallons (but with reduced cabin load.) All of them can be had for roughly the same price of $35 – $60K, depending on condition, engine and airframe times, and installed equipment.

Q: Who have you found to be the best and worst candidates to learn to fly?

A: I think the best student pilots are the ones who are paying all or at least part of the cost of lessons. You can tell by the third or fourth lesson if the student shows up prepared, on time, and healthy, they should do okay. By far the worst are spouses or children of a pilot who is paying the tab, and the spouse or kid really has little interest in learning to fly. In my experience, usually those folks give up after a few hours.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Pete Schoeninger at with your questions for this column or for consultation on aviation business and airport matters. Pete has four decades of experience as a line technician, airplane salesman (300 aircraft sold thus far), appraiser, snow removal supervisor, airport manager, and as the manager/co-owner of a fixed base operation.

The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author only, and readers are advised to seek the advice of others, and refer to the Federal Aviation Regulations, Aeronautical Information Manual, Pilot’s Operating Handbook for the airplane(s) they fly and other instructional materials before attempting any procedures discussed herein.

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