Safety In The Skies–The Airlines vs. GA

by Pete Schoeninger
© Copyright 2022. All rights reserved!
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine October/November 2022 Digital Issue

Q) What do you hear about the current aircraft market?
A) As of mid-August, I asked two active local aircraft salesmen, Jeff Baum of Wisconsin Aviation in Watertown, and Gavin Leake of Spring City Aviation in Milwaukee. Jeff reported: “…still very little inventory and great interest.” Gavin reported: “Everything remains brisk for the moment.” Jeff’s telephone number is 920-261-4567; Gavin’s telephone number is 218-280-2615.

Q) I am a student pilot. Yesterday, I rode with a new instructor for the first time. He suggested I lean the engine (C-152 0-235 LYC) while taxiing. He also suggested leaning in routine cruising flight. Would you agree?
A) Yes! When running 100LL on the ground, I leaned the mixture. Whether you should or not is your call, after referring to your pilot’s operating handbook (POH), or engine operator’s manual (EOM), or asking your favorite flight instructor or A&P mechanic for their approval. A Cessna 152 operating at full rich, will run out of fuel in about 3.3 hours. (I had to retrieve one from a farm field because a renter forgot about leaning. It had exactly 3.3 hours on the Hobbs meter since takeoff with full fuel onboard.) With proper leaning, you can get much better economy. And be sure to look at your performance graphs in your POH.

Q) Rarely, if ever, do I hear of any kind of an accident with U.S. airlines, even though there are about 1500 flights a day. That’s a terrific safety record, much better than general aviation. What are some reasons for this excellent safety record?
A) I asked two folks who used to work for me at a small airport who are now both pilots on major airlines, and still fly small airplanes as well. Their answers varied somewhat, but both mentioned standardized training and a lot of it, numerous check-rides, and flying 60 – 80 hours a month. Additionally, they mentioned there are TWO experienced pilots onboard, and usually a licensed dispatcher has input as well and approves the flight before they launch. They will NEVER intentionally bust a regulation, fly over gross weight, or bust minimums on an IFR approach. Does that help answer your question?

Q) Are there differences in handling characteristics of long fuselage taildraggers vs shorter ones? What are the most stable (ground handling characteristics) of airplanes you have flown?
A) Yes, generally speaking, airplanes with short fuselages, such as the Piper Pacer, can switch ends on you a little quicker than airplanes with longer fuselages. In my experience, the Cessna 170, American Champion Citabria, and the Piper Super Cub all are especially well-behaved taildraggers.

Q) You said a pilot of a fixed pitch prop airplane should know what his takeoff power should be and check at the beginning on takeoff that the engine is turning up normal RPMs and abort the takeoff if normal takeoff power is not realized. Anything else a pilot should know that is not mentioned in the airplane’s flight manual or pilot’s operating handbook?
A) If at a glance you don’t see usual takeoff RPMs being developed, something is amiss. Stop the takeoff immediately! It’s easy to stop on the runway as you are accelerating through say 20 mph vs trying to fly an airplane with an engine not producing normal power. The most common cause of lack of full power on takeoff is often carb ice accumulation. Another thing I have always recommended is to know a basic approach configuration which you can rely on if you lose any or all your instruments. For instance, in your airplane, a stable approach might be one notch of flaps, and the bottom of the wing level with horizon, and about 1/3 throttle, which will produce a desired airspeed and gentle descent.

Q) My airplane POH says demonstrated crosswind: 12 kts. Is that a legal limitation?
A) My interpretation is no, the POH says that the airplane has been landed in that much crosswind. Maybe it could handle more with a competent pilot at the helm, but maybe not. Something to plan for on cross-country flights to airports with only one runway. If winds of significance are forecast, do some investigating of runway alignment of nearby airports in case the crosswinds at your destination airport are uncomfortable for you.

Q) My airplane flight manual cautions that climbing at Vx (best angle of climb speed) might not allow a safe recovery in the event of power failure at very low altitude. Why?
A) When climbing at Vx, especially in an airplane with steep climb capabilities, like a lightly loaded Cessna 182, or a Piper Super Cub, complete power loss will result in airspeed decaying very fast because of the high nose attitude. Take a flight instructor with you, go up to a safe altitude, and practice this. After the simulated engine failure in a climb at Vx, wait 3 or 4 seconds before doing anything, which seems to be the common time before we react to a completely unexpected emergency, and you will see what happens. I guarantee it will be an eye opener for you.

Q) My Beech Sierra recently developed a little bit of a miss on engine runup. I took the airplane to my shop, and the mechanic there found one bad ignition wire. He suggested that since the other 7 wires were in fair to poor condition that I replace all of them. That would cost $200 plus labor. Do you think the idea to replace all of them is a rip-off or wise decision?
A) Your mechanic is correct. Your airplane is already in his shop, the cowl is off, he has the right tools out to make the repair, so the labor to change seven more wires won’t be too awful. I always felt that anything mechanical related to my airplanes should always be in tip-top shape. A couple of hundred bucks spent on nearly wore out parts before you absolutely need them replaced, is cheap insurance.

Q) I have about $100,000 budgeted to buy a used airplane. I was leaning toward a Skyhawk, but I just got my first ride in a V Tail Bonanza and Wow! Compared to a Skyhawk that Bonanza is like a Corvette vs a Nova. I want one! What would be the drawbacks of Bonanza ownership vs owning a Skyhawk?
A) According to the summer edition of Aircraft Bluebook (, $100K will get you a C172M Skyhawk (early – mid 1970s,) or a P-35 Bonanza (early 1960s). Almost all aircraft mechanics and shops are familiar with Skyhawks, but not always with Bonanzas. The same for CFIs who will give you a checkout if you get a used Bonanza…not all CFIs are familiar with them. Before committing to buy a Bonanza, be sure there is a nearby shop that is familiar with them. Most shops are familiar with Skyhawks, but less so with Bonanzas, and Bonanzas are lots more complex. Second, you SHOULD have a prepurchase inspection done whether it’s a 50-year-old Skyhawk or a 60-year-old Bonanza, to protect your wallet to some degree from surprises. Having said that, and having owned 50 percent of a Bonanza, and many Skyhawks personally, let me warn you that maintaining an older Bonanza will be more expensive than a Skyhawk. Insurance will be more expensive, especially if you are a relatively low time pilot, or have little or no time in Bonanzas. Center of gravity (CG) range on Bonanzas is small, and it’s easy to get in an aft CG situation. OK, now for the fun stuff… Every Bonanza I have flown is a delight to fly. They are fast, nimble, light on the controls, and easy to land. They do well out of relatively short runways, have excellent visibility, and have comfortable seating. Their fit and finish surpasses many other makes and models. For most people’s wallet, the Skyhawk probably makes more sense, but older Bonanzas are more fun and much faster for the same purchase price. Good luck with either!

Q) My engine operator’s manual suggests 40 wt. oil in the summer and 30 wt. oil in the winter. I have not been able to find either at my local FBO. Aircraft mechanics recommend multi-weight oil, especially in winter, of grade 15W-50 or 20W-50. Your thoughts?
A) I agree.

Q) You recently chided a wealthy man in a $500,000 airplane about not tipping a lineman. Is it routine to tip a lineman, or anyone else in general aviation?
A) It is not required, but just think, that lineman is not making a big salary. Twenty bucks to him for being especially helpful would be most appreciated, and frankly would not hurt the airplane owner. I call it charity with dignity.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Schoeninger is a 40-year general aviation veteran, starting out as a line technician as a teenager, advancing through the ranks to become the co-owner and manager of a fixed base operation, and manager of an airport in a major metropolitan community. He welcomes questions and comments about aircraft ownership via email at

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