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Letters: Purple Hearts, Barbies Forever and Air Taxis

John Moe

Larger view
A Cirrus SR22, known for its parachute.
(Hartlandmatrin)

Last week in a story about delegates at the 1972 Republican convention, we said somebody "won" a Purple Heart. Michelle Cwiekowski of Shorewood, Minn., points out that a Purple Heart is not won, but awarded to those injured or killed in enemy combat.

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It turns out there are quite a few of you out there who still love your Barbie dolls just like Desiree Cooper. Her story "Barbies Forever" brought in a Malibu dream house full of mail.

Joan Troeh of St. Genevieve, Miss., posted this note to her daughters on our web site:

Eve and Lea -- All of your Barbie dolls and all of their clothes and accessories (all washed and cleaned before being carefully stored away!) are waiting for you at home someday. Mom.

It turns out Eve is Eve Troeh, a producer for Marketplace. We got Eve on the line with her mom to talk about the Barbies-in-waiting.

Eve: Did you actually iron the Barbie clothes?

Joan: Those that needed it, yes.

Eve: My mom ironed the Barbie clothes! I think they might even be vacuumed sealed. They're super-organized, super well-stored. They're better taken care of there than they would be with me. They're better off with my mom than they would be with me, by far!

Joan: But a lot of them, I made them. They're not store-bought Barbie clothes. They're hand-made-with-love Barbie clothes. You can't possibly get rid of those or give them away. They have to be kept!

Eve: This brings up something interesting. I think my mom is actually kind of more attached to these than we are.

Joan: Well, maybe they remind me of you, and they're a little bit of you and Lea that I still have home.

Eve: Oh! (laughs)

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Charlie Schroeder's piece about his father catching an air taxi from Culebra to Puerto Rico prompted some of you to say "huh?"

What are air taxis? To find out if they're fly-by-night operations or the real deal, we called Joe Leader of the Air Taxi Association based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Joe Leader: It's like an easy version of taking a commercial jet from an airport that's actually located near your house, right to the end-destination you need to reach. Most people don't realize there are 300 airports that are served by the commercial airlines versus, in the United States. there are over 5000 that can be reached from air taxi and air charter flights.

John Moe: How is this different from just chartering a plane?

Joe: Traditionally with charter, people have thought that any charter activity is going to be a $10,000 expense. What we've seen in the air taxi marketplace is they are less than half that of traditional charter. For example, a family of three can fly from Atlanta, Ga., to Knoxville, Tenn., for under a $1000 on a private plane.

John: In the story we aired, the plane seemed to by-pass the trappings of airport security. Is that really possible in the post-9/11 world?

Joe: I wouldn't say that's the way the industry likes to have it portrayed. You don't have to go through a rigorous TSA screening, but most of our carriers do make sure that no one who's flying is on the TSA watch-list, and they do take their own security precautions. But you definitely don't have to go through the rigmarole of the traditional airport. The reason is these aircraft are so light and fuel-efficient, and you know the passengers for the most part that are on-board with you. There's not a genuine threat from the aircraft.

John: And do air taxis have Plexiglas windows between where the pilot sits and where the passengers have to sit?

Joe: They do not. They are open-cabin cockpits with most of the air taxi operators utilizing two pilots. Some do utilize one pilot. For example, on the aircraft SR22 there's one pilot, but as the emergency safety system, the entire plane has a parachute.

John: What?

Joe: There is a complete back-up system with a second pilot on a two-pilot aircraft, and on the SR22 a system where the plane literally can float gently to the ground.

John: If you tip the pilot extra will they deploy the parachute for landing, and you can do it that way?

Joe: No, that's something you don't want to do!

John: That's something I totally want to do!

Joe: Save it for an emergency once.

John: OK.

  • Music Bridge:
    Muesli
    Artist: Minotaur Shock
    CD: Maritime (4AD)
More stories from our Letters series

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