Friday, March 16, 2012

AOPA's Favorite Aircraft Challenge:
West Results and Round 2 Predictions

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Now that the voting in  AOPA's Favorite Aircraft Challenge is heating up as more pilots click here to get in on the fun, we are watching some very interesting results emerge. We've see some great airplanes make it easily through to the second round, with most of the match-ups making sense, while others seem to be coming straight out of left field.

So just how did AOPA come up with the 64 aircraft that makes up this challenge? And, once the eMedia creative team decided on those finalists, how did the match-ups come together? You might think that the eMedia team had some crazy and sophisticated algorithm to crunch numbers and select the 64 finalists. That sounds like a great “plan A” but is not how the finalists were selected. For answers, again we turn to Alyssa Miller, AOPA's Director of eMedia:
“The debates around which aircraft to include and how to rank them took place during lunch on a Friday over some pizza and pop,” Miller explains. “Of course, many pilot fanatics were involved and enjoyed pitching their favorite aircraft! I think we’re all more interested in which aircraft pilots will pick…instead of picking what we want to win, we’re trying to guess what others will do.”
Asked if the pilots that are voting are also using complex theorems to decide how to vote, Miller indicated that when it comes time to click the “submit” button on the voting site, it really boils down to one thing:
“We do have descriptions on the site and links to click through for specs etc,” Miller said, “but most pilots who are voting are going with their gut feeling. We have a comment function with the voting, and I’ve been gathering those for upcoming stories. Based on comments, their decisions are based on what they fly – or dream of flying – the nostalgia of the aircraft, etc. Voters are really getting into the smack talk too!”
We hope to present some of that 'aircraft smack' in a later segment of this series.

And now, on to the recap of the Round 1 action in the West Regional, and Airplanista's prediction for the second round in the West:

ROUND 1 RESULTS – WEST REGIONALS: If anything, the results in the West were as most pilots would have expected. The reputation of the Cessna 182 Skylane as a durable performer was no match for Cessna's 120/140, and the Skylane has made to through to the next round. The Lake Amphibian advanced by beating the Seabee in a water-soaked contest. This one kept the mop-up girls busy on the court.

In my most-watched battle, the Piper PA-28 Cherokee – which represents an entire family from the 140 to my personal favorite, the load-hauling 235 – squeaked by the Cessna 150/152 with a miniscule 2% margin! The narrow victory for the Pipers does not bode well going into the next round.

The PA-32 Cherokee Six is a notable ship, but agains the T-6 Texan, it was not even close. Memo to the rest of the competition...Don't Mess with Texas. I was personally glad that Socata's very nice TBM 850 made it past the Cessna 177 Cardinal, as the -850 deserves to move on. Not to knock the Cardinal, it is a competent airplane as well. But when you factor in the incredible specs and performance of the TBM, you see it really should be in the second round, if not farther.

Round 1 of the West was also great for some Pipers, and horrible for others. The PA-23 Aztec fell hard when one of Lock Haven's finest designs – the PA-18 Super Cub – literally wiped the floor with the -23, maybe due to the twin's unearned reputation as an “Aztruck.” And another Piper, this time the Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, never could get its offense rolling, with the nimble ball-handling and power of the Grumman F8F Bearcat sending the PA-30 on an extended off-season vacation to Vero Beach.

Last in this round was a strange match-up between the mighty #2 seeded DeHavilland Beaver and the #15 seeded Schempp-Hirth Duo Discus, whatever that is. The Beav' is the consummate seaplane, bush plane and the “go-to” ship in Alaska, and from the initial buzzer, even with the first string on the bench (and not even in uniform), the DeHavilland pulled out early and never even looked back, taking 92% of the vote in the Challenge's largest win yet.
ROUND 2 WEST REGIONAL PREDICTIONS: Voting is underway in the second round of the West, and leading off the action is an easy one. The Cessna 182 should have no problem dispatching the Lake Amphib (sorry @MaxTrescott) as the Skylane draws upon its sheer numbers in the GA fleet to advance.

As someone who has a Piper PA-28 in my hangar, I am saddened to see the four-seat Cherokee family match up against the T-6 Texan. This famous trainer from North American is the quintessential warbird you see at shows like Oshkosh, and its variants have been used all over the world to train fighter pilots. But the Cherokee family is also found on every ramp in the land, and I swear this is true, if I pick the Texan, Katy will never speak to me again. I'm going with the PA-28 here, and it will be the upset of all round two battles.

In the contest between the TBM 850 and Super Cub, I believe the fast and sexy cabin-class turboprop will overcome early voting from a large vintage contingent to advance. And last, wow, the F8F versus the Beaver! I just watched 750 busloads of Eskimos driving south through Eugene to attend this contest, so expect a large cheering section for the DeHavilland. With what might be a “less than a 5%” margin, the Beaver will claim the win here, despite the firepower and uber-groovy fold-up wings on the Bearcat.
Coming up next, I'll start presents results and predictions from second round action in all regionals, and based on what happens there, my predictions for Round 3 which is sure to have some interesting match-ups in the 16 aircraft that makes this cut.

Remember to get involved in the fun by clicking here to start voting.Remember to get involved in the fun by clicking here to start voting.

Read Part 1 of this series here

Read Part 2 (round 1 of Southwest Regionals and round 2 SW predictions) here