Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

From The Editor: No Sleep Till Touchdown

Managing Fatigue, Flying The Fury & Using Google Earth

I’ll never forget the first cross-country flight that I was on. I sat left seat as we departed the Los Angeles Basin, headed north for the coastal hamlet of Shelter Cove, Calif. After reaching cruise altitude, my right-seat companion, who was the aircraft owner and PIC, told me he was going to take a nap. As a low-time student pilot, I was eager to take over as the human autopilot, and I followed the course set on our handheld GPS. Not much later, the backseat passenger also dozed off, as did the yellow Labrador retriever next to him. I glanced around the quiet Cessna cockpit and felt a thrill not unlike what a student pilot experiences on his or her first solo flight. But at the same time, I wondered what might have happened had I not been there.

As an airline pilot who flies 15-hour transglobal flights, John Stephan is well aware of the dangers of flying while fatigued. Performance is degraded, which can have disastrous consequences. You may be thinking, “It’s simple—just don’t fly when you’re tired.” But in reality, it isn’t always so clear-cut; you may not even realize when you’re tired and your judgment is impaired. John tells us how to stay safe by recognizing and managing symptoms of tiredness.

A reduced pilot workload can help lessen fatigue, and Google Earth offers just that when used as part of the flight-planning process. The free software provides 3D depictions of terrain, over which you can superimpose a corresponding sectional chart, real-time weather and airspace boundaries. Taking a virtual flight before the real one is particularly useful when flying to an unfamiliar area or landing at a hard-to-spot airport, as I appreciated on a recent trip to a dirt strip in Rodeo, N.M. As we descended into the remote desert valley, the terrain was recognizable, and I had little difficulty spotting the strip because I had already “flown” there on my home computer. David Ison guides us, step by step, through the software and has created several video clips (viewable at that include demos of chart overlays and Google Earth’s flight-simulator mode.

Also in this issue, Bill Cox flies several aircraft, including a 2008 Turbo Skylane. Bill’s perspective, having logged 600 hours in Cessna 182s in such exotic locales as the Andes Mountains in South America, is quite different from his right-seater Peggy Herrera, a student pilot who had only been in a Skylane once before. She likens it to “a Skyhawk on steroids” and is impressed with the Garmin G1000 and the situational awareness it provides. Joe Shelton offers us advanced tips on using this glass-panel system, including creative techniques such as using user waypoints to simplify a VFR approach. Look for more of his tips in upcoming issues.

Bill also flies the LoPresti Fury, a two-seat taildragger with retractable gear. Coincidentally, the first airplane he owned was a 1947 Globe Swift, which served as Roy LoPresti’s inspiration for the new aircraft. The current prototype Fury retains the same mini-fighter look and roughly the same dimensions, but has a different wing and improved gear geometry, among other enhancements. “As much as I loved the handling of that first Swift,” Bill told me, “the LoPresti Fury solves virtually every problem the original design had. The result is a totally different and advanced machine, if still slightly resembling the original Swift.”

Also connecting Bill to his past is the Luscombe Silvaire 8F, a classic turned light-sport aircraft. The earlier 85 hp 8E model was the first airplane that Bill ever flew in a loop, an accomplishment he made soon after earning his private license in 1966. That experience inspired him to further his stick-and-rudder skills with aerobatic training in a Citabria and Pitts, and later Extras, Great Lakes and Stearmans. Now, Bill flies the all-aluminum Luscombe from Riverside’s Flabob Airport, home to many other classic taildraggers.

Jessica Ambats


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