Pilots To Pilots



Rob McDonald’s story on flying his Champ to Ohio for the Aeronca Convention brought a warm smile to me. It is a story of flying discovery of the kind we all need to savour. So much of what we read in aviation publications is about safety, technical matters and regulatory issues. It is refreshing to share in someone’s story of the pure delight that comes from a new flying adventure.

In the past five years my wife and I have flown my Cessna Cardinal to the Bahamas, Alaska, the Maritimes and the Grand Canyon.Every flight was a great adventure.And every place I hear the same comments: “You did that in a small plane?” “I can’t imagine it.”

Well, Rob McDonald showed us that you can — even at 80 mph without an electrical system, and even across the border.

Good for you Rob, and I hope you are inspiration to others to load up, take off and set out to explore this wonderful country and continent.

Brampton, Ont.



I read with interest the fine article by Jorma Kivilahti relating to last year’s Reno Air Racing event in the February COPA Flight. It was well done.

I note that Jorma “was surprised that the Super Sport class was won by a Questar”. Actually it was won by a “Questair Venture” and although it wasn’t mentioned, its pilot and builder was Mike Dacey (all pilots love their name in print) of Pismo Beach, California.

For those of us who know and fly the Questair Venture, Mike’s win in the Super Sport final was not a surprise. Mike is a veteran Reno racer. He has also spent many years systematically improving an already fast airplane.He has finished “Close but no cigar” for the last few years. We thought he could do it in 2010.

The Venture was designed by Jim Griswold (who previously developed the Malibu for Piper) to “provide the average pilot with a comfortable aircraft that can fly coast to coast in a single day.” He also intended it to be inexpensive to operate and relatively easy to build.

“Two out of three ain’t bad”.With a top speed of over 300 mph and a standard 75% cruise of 275 mph (at 13 US gallons per hour), the Venture was an immediate hit.Even better, it set several ‘time-toclimb” records (to 3,000 metres, 6,000 metres and 9,000 metres) and a world altitude record that exceeded 35,000 feet, all with a standard IO-550-G engine up front and all without benefit of turbo chargers. Easy to build?Nope. Reckon on 3,500 hours or more.

Why is the Venture able to do so many things so well? Primarily because it was so well designed.While it may look odd (its nickname is “The Egg”), the Venture boasts the lowest drag coefficient of any aircraft ever tested in the Langley Wind Tunnel (including the P-51 Mustang). It is also relatively light (typical empty weight is 1,350 pounds) and boasts very high aspect ratio flight surfaces.
Better still, it is a pilot’s aircraft. Its handling qualities are light and precise (“as close to owning your own fighter jet as the average guy will get”) yet it is both robust and tough. In a nutshell, “Griswold got it right.”

While Mike started with a fast aircraft, it is obvious that, he has made his Venture much faster.How fast? Mike routinely records speeds in excess of 400 mph (admittedly at fuel consumption rates that would take your breath away) and posted a lap speed of 412 mph at Reno in 2009. Note as well that while the “Super Sport” class allows much larger engines, Mike’s Venture still sports a Continental IO-550-G up front, although it now runs dual turbos and dual intercoolers (how Mike managed to cram all of this beneath the Venture’s cowl is amazing to me). It has also benefited from input from a remarkable Canadian company, Simple Digital Systems of Calgary.

Aside from being very fast, Mike’s Venture is also remarkably reliable. His engine has many hours on it (over three years of both cross-country and racing) and runs very cool. Indeed, at its last annual, compression ratios were still nominal, which is a tribute to Mike’s dedication to cooling drag improvement.

When asked why his Venture performs so well, Mike modestly attributes much of his success to Griswold’s design genius. “Aside from its minimal drag, the Venture’s high aspect ratio wings bleed off very little speed in high “G” turns. It is also effortless in its precision around the pylons, thus allowing the pilot to hold an excellent line though highly-banked turns.” What Mike rarely talks about is the staggering amount of time and effort he has invested in improving his bird or his excellent racing skills.

With respect to Mike’s win, two final items should be noted:

- Mike’s Venture is not the result of a heavily sponsored commercial team, it’s performance results are from Mike’s personal efforts and those of a tiny group of his “pals.” Several years ago, Mike’s Venture was all but destroyed when its landing gear malfunctioned on landing. It took Mike close to three years to rebuild it and three more years to refine it.His recent win was a result of dedication and tenacity.

- The 2010 “Super Sport” final race that Mike won, took place under horrific conditions. Winds were gusting close to 50 mph and mechanical turbulence was “the worst I have ever experienced” in the words of those who participated.
Indeed, both the preceding race as well as the follow-on Unlimited race were cancelled due to the appalling race conditions.

Mike told me that he had never experienced such severe physical abuse in an aircraft... ever. He also allowed that he did not use full power during the race due to the severe pounding his aircraft was experiencing.

In 2010, Jon Sharpe and his magnificent NXT were not able to participate in Reno. It is expected that both will return in 2011. Mike is looking forward to “duking it out” with his good friend, Jon. Venture pilots think there may be more “surprises” at that event.



RE: 406 ELT

Although I’ve written you about this subject previously, the time is getting close now that the Transportation Minister will be making a decision on this soon.

I have somewhat of a different view point, I wish the Minister to consider:

As a U.S. pilot flying my U.S. fully licensed aircraft into Canada, I believe it will be a disastrous precedent to set for Canada to require all visiting U.S. (and all other aircraft) to equip with a 406 Mhz transmitter.

You have heard all the talk of the cost to Canadian owners to retrofit their aircraft and that 75% of the new transmitters do not work on impact, (the same as the old 121.5 transmitters, etc.)

If you mandate 406 Mhz installation in all aircraft that enters Canada I believe you will create a negative impact on tourism as well as impose large costs to U.S. pilots.

Imagine for a moment that California with their strict automobile emission standards might prohibit all autos entering from Canada unless they qualify to “their” specifications.

Next: Perhaps Canada might say that tires on automobiles coming into Canada must not be over three years old to help prevent highway deaths.

Our countries should not impose restrictions on each other when each of our respective countries has deemed that our equipment is safe and licensed to operate in our own countries. I’m sure you see my point.

It’s a serious precedent to set and the reality is that a 406 Mhz Installation mandate won’t have a noticeable positive impact, but a very negative one.

Will you please forward this letter to the Transport Minister and the Tourism Minister, as I don’t have their email addresses.


ed. To my knowledge, the revised ELT regulation remains in the Minister of Transport’s office with no indication of when it will be released to Gazette II (become law) and I have no idea whether or not it has been amended from the version that was released for public comment a few years ago.

Assuming the intent remains to effectively mandate new ELTs, including for foreign aircraft in our airspace, there will be a significant negative impact in Canada, including the loss of tens of thousands of foreign visiting aircraft and hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy.

As per your request, I have copied the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Minister of Industry (who is responsible for tourism) and the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism.

As a reminder of COPA’s attempts to educate the government on this issue I included a letter that was sent in 2009 to the then Minister of State following some comments she made regarding stimulating the economy through investment in tourism. The response to that letter was that the matter was in the Transport Minister’s hands; in effect saying that the negative impact on tourism did not matter.

President and CEO



I really enjoyed reading Ken Mc- Neill’s article “When’s the right time?”(March COPA Flight page B-11) . It really struck a chord with me - first, because I have known and liked Ken for a long time; and second, because I know we all have to make that decision at some point.

I’m just south of 60 and I hope I still have lots of good flying years in me. I remember when Lorna deBlicquy, a pioneer aviatrix and very good friend (now deceased), decided to “hang up her wings” at 65, because she never wanted “someone else” to tell her she could no longer fly.

It was great reading about how Ken felt about his aircraft. I have definitely formed an emotional bond with some aircraft I have flown, so I found Ken’s thoughtful treatment of “JJ” very moving.

Ken - Thanks so much for sharing your story; I wish you all the best for good health and pleasant adventures for many years to come.

Ottawa, Ont.


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