Plane & Pilot
Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wingipedia, Part II

In this edition, “Jenny” through “roll”

wingipediaLast month, we brought you the first installment (“acrobatics” through “induced drag”) of Wingipedia, our aviation-based encyclopedia. Here, we present the second installment. If you think that something’s missing, log on to to contribute your own additions.
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Where would we be without the French? Another French word, via Latin (navicella), for “little ship.” It’s a general term applied to streamlined enclosures for engines, landing gear, etc.

Nape of the earth
This term, most often heard in military circles, refers to flying low, in the “nape,” as in our neck, of the topography so as to avoid detection.

A navaid is any navigational aid, on the ground (VORs) or in the cockpit (VOR receiver). A compass is a navaid, although the term is generally attached to something that’s electronic.

Nondirectional beacon, like a low-frequency (or MF or UHF) beacon that’s generating a signal an aircraft can follow. When part of the ILS system, it’s called the compass locator.


Outside air temperature is a highly technical av-term that refers to the air temperature outside. One of aviation’s harder-to-understand concepts (not!), but one that’s needed when calculating true airspeed, etc.

Octane rating
This is a number that gives a gasoline’s relative resistance to detonating (autoignition). The higher the number, the more resistant it is. Although we only see 80 and 100 octane today, it used to go as high as 145 for fuel used in high-horsepower fighters and transports. The number you’re most used to seeing is derived from the equation, R+M/2. It’s an average of the motor octane number and the research octane number.

One of Leonardo da Vinci’s favorite concepts: a machine that flies by flapping its wings. Don’t look for one on the back tiedown line at your local airport.

A city in Wisconsin. An event (the world’s largest, annual outdoor happening). A state of mind. A philosophical and psychological destination. Oshkosh is shorthand for the EAA’s annual aero-bash, which they insist on calling AirVenture, but is known worldwide simply as Oshkosh.

P-factor is the yawing tendency caused by the difference in lift on the ascending and descending blades of the propeller. The yaw will be full power on the left, and power at idle on the right, assuming “normal” clockwise propeller rotation.

When Pennsylvania oilman William T. Piper bought the assets of the bankrupt Taylor Aircraft Company for $761 in 1930 and took control, he started the dynasty that would last for nearly half a century and, in the public’s mind, made every light airplane a “Piper Cub.”

Named after its inventor, Henri Pitot (yes, another Frenchman), the pitot tube allows oncoming air to rush inside where it’s resisted by static air within the tube. The difference between this pressure and the static pressure can be calibrated in any speed units desired, e.g., knots, mph, furlongs per eon, whatever.

The propeller is actually a clever way to transform the rotary action of an engine and the horsepower it’s generating into thrust. Essentially, the propeller is a rotating wing, and the lift being generated drags the airplane ahead.


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