Start early on your list, it makes for a wonderful life
The other day, a student called to book some flight training, explaining that flying a Pitts has been on his bucket list. I haven’t seen the movie by the same name, but I love the concept: You make up a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket, and little by little, you whittle it down. Naturally, when I heard that, I thought about what I’d put on my own such list. After a few minutes of thinking, however, I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad that I couldn’t come up with many items.
Every other summer or so, as I fly north with friends over the lush immensity of southern Wisconsin, find Ripon and then push along the railroad tracks, a sensation of satisfaction and memory overtakes me as the skyline of Lake Winnebago fills the windshield. I realize then that I don’t fly into Oshkosh just for the usual reasons—the air shows, strolling the avionics bazaars, enjoying the epic storytelling of Rod Machado. To me Oshkosh is a celebration of personality and spirit.
The accelerated stall usually surprises a pilot because it occurs at a higher airspeed than a normal stall (in which a wing loading of 1 G is maintained). Remember, a wing can be made to stall at any speed—all that has to happen is for the angle of attack to get high enough. As G-loading increases, so does stall speed. If a wing reaches its critical angle of attack when the wing loading is 2 G, twice normal, the stall will occur at a speed that’s proportional to the square root of the wing loading.
After a takeoff run of about one foot, the attitude pitches up to 10, then 20, then 30 degrees. I know we can’t maintain this pitch angle very long, but the pilot holds the nose up with no apparent concern for impending disaster.
I can only imagine the first day back to school for Rinker Buck in the fall of 1966. As his classmates recounted tales of riding bikes around the block and jumping in the neighbor’s pool, Rinker’s version of “what I did this summer” must have been a showstopper. “Well, my brother and I flew an airplane from New Jersey to California in only six days,” the 15-year-old could have said.
On a recent flight from Los Angeles to Dallas, I was nearing a pit stop in Albuquerque when the radio crackled with the following: “Thunderbird One, you’re cleared direct Red Ridge.” “Hmm, can it be the T-Birds?” I thought as I sped toward the Lone Star State. The controller inquired about their loose formation, and the lead T-Bird confirmed their staggered positioning. Must be them, I gathered, and I looked down to the screens for traffic info, flicking the sensitivity from NORM to UNLTD in hopes of seeing something. Well, wouldn’t you know it, up pops a return moving quickly in the opposite direction, 7,900 feet above at my 11 o’clock.
At the 2005 AOPA Convention, barely six months after the first light-sport aircraft (LSA) airworthiness certificates were issued, AOPA President Phil Boyer observed, “This has got to be one of the most interesting things you can do: help bring a whole new segment of aviation to market.”
Experience is a great teacher, but only if you listen to it
I knew it was windy, but it wasn’t that bad. I mean 15 gusting to 25 isn’t even close to the top of the sphincter-tension scale in my little airplane. In fact, it’s so good in a crosswind that to a certain extent, those of us who fly the type tend to ignore crosswinds. Or at least pooh-pooh anything under 20 to 25 knots. My record, which I mention constantly, is 38 gusting to 50, 60 through 90 degrees to the runway. And therein lies the difference. At 90 degrees, I’m flying one airplane. At 120 degrees, as it was Sunday, it’s something quite different, and I knew it. Still, I didn’t have a doubt in my little airplane. We could handle it.
It has been said that oil is the blood of an engine. If the oil is old and tired, contains foreign materials or flows at the wrong pressure, the engine’s optimum life span can be threatened. All pilots should know enough to check oil quality, as well as quantity, during preflight inspection. A quick peek at oil quantity marks on the dipstick isn’t enough. During preflight, you need to determine whether the oil seems suspiciously gritty, displays an unusual color or sheen, seems too thin or too thick for the ambient temperature, or has a “burnt” aroma. Inspect inside the cowling and on the ground under the engine for signs of oil leaks.
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced his plans for the United States to put the first man on the moon by 1970. The space race officially shifted into high gear. His announcement also triggered events that led to the manufacture of one of the oddest looking planes in aviation history—the Pregnant Guppy, an aircraft that would help make Kennedy’s goal a reality.
In the Siegfried family tree, there’s a Cub that flies from branch to branch, as each generation introduces the next to aviation. Whereas some parents pressure their kids to play piano or throw a football, the Siegfried’s child-rearing checklist revolves around taildraggers. “Old Bob” took his first flight in a J-3 in 1943; his five children each soloed gliders at age 14 and Cubs at 16. And while granddaughter McKinley’s classmates were cavorting on spring break this year, the high schooler devoted 50 hours per week to building a Texas Sport Cub, the kit version of an American Legend Cub, with her father. We joined them in Lakeland, Fla., where 16-year-old McKinley soloed the low-and-slow derivative, extending family tradition another generation.
If you were to drive across the country, you could point your car in the right direction and eventually you’d get to your destination, though perhaps not by a straight-line route. Before leaving, you’d need to consult a map to ensure that you’re heading in the right direction and don’t get lost. Likewise, to get your first airline job, it’s best to have a carefully thought-out plan so that you get where you want in the shortest amount of time. Increasingly, that means adding glass-cockpit experience to your checklist.
There was a time in each of our lives when we weren’t yet pilots. Born as aviators, perhaps, but not licensed pilots. We jumped at any opportunity to get closer to the sky, and more often than not, passion overruled reason. Countless childhood hours have been spent polishing aluminum in exchange for 10-minute rides around the patch. At age 15, Senior Editor Bill Cox even endured frostbite in minus-40 degree temperatures at Ladd Air Force Base in Alaska, but he got to fly in a Northrop F-89D Scorpion—so never mind that his fingertips nearly fell off.
Misfueling occurs when the wrong type of fuel is pumped into an aircraft’s tanks. It could be that jet fuel gets pumped instead of gasoline, gasoline instead of jet fuel, automotive gas instead of aviation gas, automotive gas containing ethanol instead of auto gas with no additives, or something else yet to be devised by a creative fueling person.
As this column is being written, I’m sitting in an open-sided tent at Sun ’n Fun. The annual event is held in Lakeland, Fla., which is about 50 miles west of “Mickeyville.” It’s raining, it’s colder than an auditor’s heart, I got soaked looking for a sweatshirt, so I’m wearing a garbage bag in a vain attempt at limiting heat loss—I look like I’m homeless. Plus, I’m shivering so much that typing is becoming a chore, so excuse any typos. The ’08 air show season is off to a typical start.