Tuesday, September 3, 2013
10 Best Pilots
The ability to make an airplane do the impossible is what separates the best from the rest
John Mohr in his stock 220 hp Stearman.
First, there's the definition of "best." When talking about the best pilots, do we measure that in terms of how well they handle the airplane? Or, do we measure it based on what they accomplished as aviators? Do we look at some of the feats they performed, e.g., acts of heroism? It got very complicated, so we wound up using a vague definition of "best" that will become obvious as we talk about each of the 10 pilots we put on our list. And, no, we really don't expect you to agree. That's why we gave you our email address and not our home phone numbers. Feel free to disagree. Also, let us know what additional categories you think we should have investigated.
Best Airline Pilots
When talking about a system based on seniority and not performance, how do you measure "best" pilot? In this case, given the type of aircraft being flown, we selected a crew as opposed to a single pilot: the crew of United 232, which includes Capt. Alfred C. Haynes, Dennis E. Fitch (an off-duty DC-10 UAL flight instructor who was a passenger), first officer William Records and second officer Dudley Dvorak.
You probably don't know Capt. Haynes' name. Nor that of Dennis Fitch. Now picture the image of a DC-10 slamming onto Sioux City's runway and breaking up into a flaming ball. Aha! You recognize that, right? That was July 1989, and this was the crew "flying" the airplane that accomplished truly amazing feats of airmanship.
Their problems were caused when a turbine wheel in the center engine (mounted in the tail) exploded in a circular cloud of shrapnel. Besides turning the tail into Swiss cheese, the control system hydraulic lines were severed, removing any form of aerodynamic control. The pilots had no elevators, rudder, ailerons or flaps. The only major system that was working was the remaining two engines mounted under each wing.
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