30 August 2006

How Incredibly Sad

Com Air 5191

We already know most of what there is to know about the accident.
The rest of what we will learn will be detail: more "why" than "what".

I've discussed my feelings about airplanes in several previous posts. I'm uncomfortable in them. You can't see out of them, and the bigger airplanes are, in many cases, worse than the smaller ones. Windshields are tiny, almost like they are an afterthought.
You can't see through the wing on an airplane. This is more of a problem on small airplanes than big ones. But look through pictures of strange events in aviation, and you'll likely find several pics of low wing airplanes perched on top of high wing airplanes....... both lined up for approach on the same runway at the same time....... neither of them saw the other until they started hearing expensive noises.

But what scares me most about airplanes is the speed in proximity to the ground.
In a helicopter, I know what my power reserves are the moment I lift the machine into a hover. I pretty much know immediately what sort of distances/obstacle clearance I'm gonna need to take off.

If you have control of the airplane, it is impossible to slow it below it's stall speed. The inverse of that is that the airplane will not fly until you exceed it's stall speed.
I know no technical details about the CRJ that Com Air was operating, but Big Bubba, Sara Jean and I flew in a couple of them on a flight to Washington, D.C. several years ago.
It is a beautiful thing to look at, and we were as comfortable flying in it as we would have been in a Boeing 757. I have heard they require about 6000 feet of runway to gather enough speed to fly. That's just over a mile, accelerating hard all the way.

I cannot imagine how the pilots must have felt when it became apparent they were on that short runway. As they saw the runway end get nearer and nearer, they knew they were in trouble, and when the end of the runway passed beneath them they had to have been going mighty fast, just not fast enough, and knew then that they were in BIG trouble.

The surviving First Officer is badly hurt and may not make it due to complications from injuries. I hope he survives and is able to fill in some of the details we need to help keep this sort of thing from happening again. But we have learned that he was the "Pilot at the controls", so he will feel ultimately responsible for the accident. He will also suffer from survivor's guilt. His life is forever changed.

We also know now that the Tower should have been manned with two controllers, and only one was on duty. That guy also will play "If Only" games in his mind for the rest of his life.

Pray for both of these guys.
They'll both need it.

29 August 2006

Karl From Canada

It was the mid- 1970's. I was working at my first commercial flying job.
I was instructing in a Hiller UH-12C and Bell 47G2.
The company also owned two Bell JetRangers in which I did Part 91 and Part 135 flying. We had sold one of the JetRangers to a company in Canada.

Karl arrived from the Yukon to inspect the aircraft. He regaled us with stories of flying where the compass was nearly useless and Tundra provided no landmarks to navigate by....(Pre GPS, and Loran was relatively new, at least for aviation usage.)
Strange stuff to Midwestern ears.

We had removed the dual controls and had covered access to them with carpeting on this machine. A single pilot operation, this Jetranger needed that left seat for passengers. We had also sprayed the new Registration number on the tail: CGSHI.
I immediately thought how that registration was one letter short of an interesting vulgarity.

In passing conversation, Karl mentioned he would like to fly with a helmet, but couldn't afford one. I happened to own one, but it was located at my girlfriends apartment, a 35 minute flight away in the JetRanger. Karl suggested we could kill two birds with one stone: Test-fly the JetRanger and fly to get the helmet.
I called my girlfriend and asked her to meet us at the airport with helmet in tow, and Karl and I would take her to dinner.

We had cancelled our insurance coverage on the aircraft, and Karl's company had picked up the coverage. I watched him go through his startup procedure, then suggested he do some hovering maneuvers so I could evaluate his skills prior to heading off on the 35 minute flight. He was good with the aircraft, and I quickly relaxed while he flew.

We met my girlfriend mid-afternoon and went to get Pizza. At first, all went well...... Karl seemed to be enjoying the attention my attractive girlfriend was paying him....... she was fascinated with his accent.

But I began to notice some strange quirks about him...... he began to be nervous, frequently looking at his watch. He finally asked, "what time does it get dark around here?"

"Shortly after 5 P.M." I responded.
"Oh My!", was Karl's answer. I was really puzzled by this behavior-
He was freaking out!

By the time we got to the airport, the sun was already sneaking below the horizon. Only then did Karl enlighten us about his strange behavior:
He had never flown at night.

So now I've got a dilemma-
The aircraft has one set of controls, so I can't support him as co-pilot. I'm not insured under his coverage to fly this very expensive machine. We have to get back to our home base, in order to get him on his way home in the morning.

I swallow hard and climb into the Pilot's seat.
It is dusk as we take off, but is completely dark within 5 minutes, and Karl is squirming like a child that has been caught stealing. The flight home follows a major highway, with four towns along the way. I point out to him that from 3000 feet indicated we can see the daisy-chain of lighted towns in succession, and our destination out on the horizon. He begins to relax. By the time we land, he actually seems to be enjoying himself. I'm just glad to get skids on the ground so I don't have to worry about bending an uninsured machine.

Apparently it is against Regulations to fly single engine aircraft at night in Canada. We take single-engine night flying for granted in the U.S., and do it with relative safety. I find it incredible that in Canada, where it remains dark for a huge chunk of time during Winter, single engine aircraft simply don't fly without the sun in the sky.

With that restriction in mind, how does anyone make money with a single engine aircraft in Canada?

UPDATED, 1508 hours:
Upon re-reading, I realized I really began to notice strange behavior from Karl as we flew toward the city. The flight started in relatively rural countryside, then got more and more urban during the flight. Karl was accustomed to flying over the occasional Caribou. When it was obvious the only forced landing area available would be the center of a city street, dodging the attendant streetlights and wires, Karl expressed great discomfort. It was another window into a totally different style of flying, and how accustomed we can get to taking risks when it is a daily part of the job.

Reading the registration number peaked my curiosity and I went to look the number up, hoping the designation would still come up as a Bell 206B. Sadly, that's not the case: CGSHI is now registered as a Beech 95- B55. I'd love to be able to track the history of the JetRanger from the time Karl disappeared from sight as he flew it to it's new workplace!

22 August 2006

Eight Vee's of Three

I was Supply Officer for the Battalion, and for once I was glad to be on the ground, not in the air.

When I got off active duty, I joined this Unit of the Army Reserve.......
Two companies and a Battalion HQ, 27 UH-1 "Hueys" split between them.

The Unit was based at a local civilian airport and was renting space in a civilian hangar.
The Federal Government, looking for ways to economize, found cheaper space for us at an Air Force Base 14 miles distant.

We had to move.

It was a big deal. Moving the aircraft, personnel, and all support services was a daunting task. The Boss, a Lieutenant Colonel, wanted to make an impression on everyone in the area to announce our arrival at our new home. His plan was to move the Battalion as a whole...... fly all the flyable aircraft in formation to the Air Force Base, do a "fly-by" low, down the runway, then break off and land individually at our new digs.
The Air Force refused his request for a fly-by......
"dangerous, and against regulations to perform an airshow demonstration", they said.

The Boss called me and the rest of his staff together to discuss it. We were irritated by the Air Force's inflexibility.

Moving day was gorgeous....... not a cloud in the sky. I was standing at our new hangar with much of the rest of the battalion, anxiously awaiting what we knew would be a beautiful sight: 24 of our 27 Hueys were flyable and would be in the coming formation........
8 Vee's with three Hueys in each Vee.

A single Huey makes a lotta noise. Two dozen of them in a close formation can approach the threshhold of pain. When the formation climbed above the treeline 14 miles away, we could hear 'em. Actually, you could feel the noise....... a pounding in your chest. The volume increased by the second. The 14 mile flight took just under ten minutes. We heard the formation for 6 full minutes before we caught our first glimpse of it.

I'm disappointed to report to you I didn't have a camera to record the event. It was glorious.
As a Charley Model Huey and Cobra Gunship pilot in Viet Nam, I gave support to many such formations- some even larger........
providing Gunship cover to large Infantry units being inserted in the field. But I had never been on the ground to actually experience such a flock flying by.

The Boss got everyone lined up on a two mile final approach.
All but a handful of the pilots in the formation were highly experienced Viet Nam veterans......
the formation was tight and disciplined.
All of us on the ground were transfixed, proud, and in awe.
That wonderful sound continued to grow.

I'm sure I had a wicked grin on my face as I watched this magnificent flight of Hueys continue down the runway at 15 feet of altitude.........
the "against regulation" fly-by!
I smiled, knowing EXACTLY what had happened.

We had discussed it in the Staff meeting and resolved the problem.
On short final, The Boss keyed his radio and spoke these words:
"XXXXX Tower, we have a little problem and will be performing a go-round."

And the tower's response?
"Roger that".

21 August 2006

Fight? When?

I've written about the loss of our close friend to Cancer....... the Loretta Young look-alike.
She watched in denial as her breast changed shape and nipple inverted. Only when the discharge began did she seek medical attention.
Too late.

How long would you wait? What signs would move you to action?

There have been active Muslim riots in France and the Nordic countries.
Islamic fundamentalists run the operation in Iran, and are fomenting problems in Lebanon and Iraq. The Palestine situation is a festering sore. Syria is not helping matters.
Saudi Arabia teaches their schoolchildren that Western life and Westerners in general are evil.
Fundamentalist movements are active in the Philippines, Indonesia, France, Spain, the Nordic countries, and elsewhere.

In the face of threats of "a huge event" scheduled for 22 August, I'd like to relate a story I've heard:
If you throw a frog into a boiling cauldron, it will jump out.
If you put a frog into a cauldron filled with room temperature water and then build a fire beneath the vessel, the frog will remain in the water as the temperature slowly increases and it boils to death.

I'm frightened by attitudes our "Allies" have shown.
At what point do we realize we're in big trouble?
Will we begin to fight the Cancer while we still have a chance of winning?
I fear the temperature of the water around us is slowly increasing.


My son calls 'em "lurkers". That's his moniker for those that come here and read, even like what they see enough to come back again and again, but never leave a comment.
I can't do that.
When I am moved by a post, I have to let the author know how they have touched me.
Knowing you wrote something that motivated someone to comment is a wonderful feeling.

Let me clue you in to something interesting:
Unless you are an AOL user, my sitemeter tells me much about you:
your computer ID, where your ISP is located, how long you stayed, and more.
(Location for an AOL user is simply "United States", but I still get the computer ID.)

I had a student a year or so ago. He needed a few hours to finish the requirements for his rating. I instructed him for that time, then recommended him for his checkride. He passed easily.
He's a great guy and a damned fine helicopter pilot. He works for a major corporation that has a highly recognizable name. The town where the company is headquartered is also widely recognized as their home base.
As an example, let's say he works for Hershey's Chocolate.
When I check my sitemeter information and I find someone reading my blog from Hershey, PA., on a computer based at Hershey's Chocolate, do you think I could pretty much bet that my former student is reading my blog? I have emailed him on a couple occasions and asked if there is anything interesting goin' on in his life, giving him the opportunity to say "hey, I love your blog!" But NO!............ no response.
I know he has to know it's me writing this stuff.......... yet he leaves no comments. Now I want him to know that I know he knows I know.

So "Hershey", I know it's you out there reading!
And thanks again for bringing the "Hershey's" promotional stuff when you last came to fly.
Fall is just around the corner, and that flannel vest will be mighty comfortable!

17 August 2006

Lebanon = Hezbollah

I've been fascinated with the Hezbollah/Israeli conflict. I think it is a window to our coming conflict with Iran. Round one has gone to Hezbollah and their Iranian benefactors.

I'm no foreign policy expert, but I think this outcome benefits Israel in an odd way, and unfortunately that benefit leads to much more chaos in Lebanon:
Lebanon now IS Hezbollah.

Do any of you believe that diplomacy will work in this case;
that Hezbollah will abide by the U.N. resolutions, lay down their arms and live peacefully with their Jewish neighbors?
Nor do I.

So it's just a question of time until the fuze is once again lit. And when the shooting resumes, no one can honestly say that Hezbollah is just a faction of the Lebanese government and complain about "innocent" Lebanese lives being lost. By siding so heavily with Hezbollah, Lebanon has chosen the dark side of the force.......

And Israel will no longer be dealing with "innocents".

16 August 2006

Gyroscopic Precession

No, it's not a parade of Greek Sandwiches!
It is, however, the cause of some interesting things in our life, and is VERY important to helicopter pilots. It's also important to the answer of my earlier question about riding a bike.

Some years back, I went to a show put on by the Moody Bible Institute, relating modern day science to the Bible. It was an interesting show- two hours each over three nights, culminating with the host standing atop a 55 gallon drum holding a 2X4 in his hand....... the barrel was then energized with 50,000 volts of electricity, causing the board to sizzle, crack, then catch fire.
In another segment, the host walked to center stage with a large suitcase. He invited a member of the audience onstage with him, then asked him to move the suitcase to the rear of the stage......... a move which required turning with the suitcase. The audience member almost lost his balance as the suitcase would not cooperate with his attempts....... we later found out the suitcase contained a very large gyroscope which had been spun up to 25,000 r.p.m.! Moving it in a straight line was easy, but the gyro didn't want to be turned.

Airplane pilots will be aware of the phenomenon....... along with torque, it causes "P factors" on takeoff.
Did you go out and get on your bike and try my experiment? Were you surprised?
Once again, Jason had the correct answer. If you pull the right handlebar toward you, the bike will lean to, and move left.
Because of gyroscopic precession!

The theory is, when pressure is applied to a rotating body, that pressure becomes fully realized 90 degrees later in the direction of rotation.
Visualize with me:
Think of the wheels turning beneath you on the bike. If you pull the right handlebar back toward you, you are applying pressure to the right side of the front wheel at it's rearmost point, and to the left side at its most forward point. That pressure becomes most apparent 90 degrees later in the direction of rotation, which results in the wheel leaning to the left, causing the bike to "bank" to the left even though it was a right turn which was seemingly commanded. We never conciously think of what we are doing when we ride a bike, we do this naturally. When I ask students the question I asked you, most students will answer incorrectly. I always send them to find a bicycle!

In order to make the rotor of the helicopter lean in a certain direction, the force necessary to get that result must be applied 90 degrees beforehand. The control systems on a helicopter are rigged to do just that. Next time you are near a helicopter, take a look at the control system......
the control tubes that change the angle of attack of the rotors are mounted ahead of the rotors.

Pretty neat stuff, huh?

14 August 2006

After Action Report, 10-13 August, '06

How can I adequately describe this trip? Where do I start?

It's funny........ I really don't care much for travelling.
I don't sleep well the night before heading West to bring home one of these machines. There is stress from so many directions: Wanting to be sure I have all the proper equipment, handheld radio, charts, clothing, etc., to get the job done.......
Just getting to the airport from my front door takes nearly three hours. Add to that the time it takes to get a boarding pass and make it through security. That task was complicated this time by the news we were fortunate to receive before getting to the airport: we would not be allowed to take some items onboard in our hand-carry luggage: Deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo.........anything in liquid or gel form. My partner Don had prescription drugs in his bag that were divided into one of those Sunday-Saturday daily dosage thingies, and didn't have anything to indicate the drugs were his. We knew he would lose those if he tried to carry them aboard, so he had to check that bag.
Surprisingly, the chaos I expected at the Southwest Airlines terminal didn't materialize. We checked Don's bag, advanced through security, and were waiting for our airplane almost two hours before flight time.

Travel concerns aside, I love airports. It is SO entertaining to watch people........
The airplane we would use arrived from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Folks getting off that airplane were obviously dressed for warmer weather........ light tropical dress. They were tanned and happy. I was ready to buy a ticket for Ft. Lauderdale myself!

Four hours and change after takeoff we were in L.A..
Larry and Mary Kay met us after we got Don's bag and we drove in traffic that was lighter than I expected to our favorite Mexican restaurant. Bellies full, we headed to the motel near the Robinson Helicopter factory.

Up and at 'em on Friday morning, we arrived at RHC at 9 A.M..
It's been 15 years since Don has been at the factory, so he was amazed to see the changes in the operation since they moved from their old Crenshaw Boulevard location. Milly, Chief of sales, gave us a personal tour of the entire operation. I had not been through the newest addition to the factory, and I too was amazed at the technology they use to make the different parts of the helicopter. One new machine uses wire to cut metal parts, and can cut to tolerances of 50 millionth of an inch!

I have described the problem we had with the cylinder head temperature gauge. It is frustrating for me to be mentally prepared to depart on this 2,000 mile trip, only to have a problem abort the process. But we finally got under way, several hours later than I had hoped.

The difference between flying home in the R22 and the R44 can't be over-emphasized. The R22 is less stable, slower, and more cramped. It is a hard three day slog to get back to the Midwest in an R22, generally after about 20 hours flight time.
The R44 has a wider cockpit, is faster and more stable. You can put charts, etc. on the rear seats, freeing up all the space in the forward cockpit. Given an early start on day one, it would be feasible to make it home in two days in the 44 with a smile on your face, after 15 hours of flying.

We had hoped to spend Friday night in Roswell with Ole Prairie Dog, once again enjoying adult beverages on his beautiful patio. But the aforementioned thunderstorms and running out of daylight precluded that. We did make it to Roswell by Noon on Saturday and had a fine meal with Mr. and Mrs. O.P.D., then got both both of them airborne for a tour of Roswell and their home.

We flew through a gap in thunderstorms on the way to Plainview, Texas for fuel, then continued to Clinton, Oklahoma, to find the keys in the airport courtesy car. Checked into the motel, we purchased cold adult beverages and takeout from a local eaterie, then went back to the motel to catch the forecast and relax.

Sunday dawned crystal clear, but the old song, "OKLAHOMA, where the wind comes whistling down the plain" was proving true....... we started the big Lycoming in 20 knot winds, and the forecast was for them to increase to 30 knots in the afternoon. Time to head home!

The wind on this leg home was right on our butt...... our groundspeed was 141 knots: 162 m.p.h.!
We rotorheads seldom see a groundspeed like that, so Don and I both had smiles on our faces.
One interim stop was at an airport that had cold cuts, potato chips, and soft drinks for purchasers of avgas, and since we hadn't had breakfast, we were happy to partake of them.

We arrived home late in the afternoon after having flown 14.5 hours. The new 540 cubic inch Lycoming surprised us by burning only two quarts of oil while the parts were getting familiar with one another. The cylinder head temperature gauge continued to give us troubles off-and-on, so the probe for that gauge will be changed before delivery to the new owner.

Some afterthoughts:
Your formative years have such a profound effect on how you perceive the world! I was raised near Indianapolis, Indiana........ we called it "Naptown" for good reason. For it's size, Indy was a quiet, unthreatening place to grow up. Rolling hills prevailed, and the earth there is covered either with trees, crops, or water.

On this trip, we take off from an artificial oasis in the middle of the desert called Los Angeles.
It takes over an hour of flying at over 100 miles an hour to get away from that city; it is HUGE. The roads are ALWAYS full of cars and trucks.
As you fly farther and farther from the city, the ground gets brown, then kinda brown/gray. Vegetation gives way to rocks and mountains. For the next couple days, anytime you see green you know there is water involved, either natural or influenced by man. Obviously, there are folks that love the desert and want to live in that environment. They are uncomfortable when they cannot see 100 miles in every direction. I understand that feeling, but I can't identify with it. There are places along the route of this trip where you pray the machine continues to work as it should, because if it breaks, you'll be in a really desperate situation instantly.
It's an uncomfortable thought for this Midwestern soul.

Nevertheless, if things fall into place, I may be making the trip again soon........ this time in an R44 with an air-conditioner, a first time experience for me.
I look forward to including you in my experiences on that journey.
Thanks to those of you that sent your thoughts!

13 August 2006

Safely Home

After 14.5 hours of flight time, assisted with a boost from Mother Nature most of the way, we are safely home.

I'm still unwinding. Give me a bit to sort my thoughts, and I'll have a report for ya later.

It's great to be home in my own bed.

12 August 2006

The Best Laid Plans

We had a good plan. It lasted until the first problem appeared.
There was no "Plan B".
We arrived at the factory, got the paperwork covered, and preflighted the aircraft. All was well.
Charts at hand and my radio frequency cheat-sheet close by, we went through the pre-start checklist, then started the engine. After engine start, engine oil pressure should rise immediately. Then we wait for oil temperature to climb into the normal range. Finally, the cylinder head temperature should also rise into normal operating limits. When all engine instruments are "in the green", there are several tests that you run to insure the systems are working properly.......
Magnetos, carburetor heat, overrunning clutch, and low RPM warning system.
We waited for the cylinder head temperature to go into the green range.........
and waited........and waited. We finally realized we had a problem, shut the aircraft down, and went looking for a mechanic.
They were on their lunch break.

We finally resolved the problem and took off from Torrance at 1 P.M., several hours late.
The rest of the flight went normally. We landed at Blythe, CA., Casa Grande, AZ., then dodged thunderstorms on the way to landing at West Texas airport at El Paso, TX.. It was getting dark and I could see lightning flashes East of El Paso. Too many weak links in that chain: we were tired, darkness was approaching, weather was a factor, and we were over unfamiliar territory. It was time to quit flying for the night, still short of our intended landing at Roswell.

The motel advertised "High Speed Internet Access".
Upon investigation I found they wanted to charge extra for it. No problem.......I'll use an account I have with Earthlink and just use "dial-up". But I tried and tried two phone numbers for Earthlink to no avail. I couldn't access my email, and couldn't blog to bring you up to speed on our progress.

Arising this morning after a great night's sleep, we got on our way at about 10 A.M., and landed at Roswell in time to have lunch with Ole Prairie Dog and his Fair Bride. After lunch, I put O.P.D. in the pilot's seat and let him have the controls of the first helicopter he had flown in 23 years......... his wife in the back seat watching the fun. It took about 5 minutes for him to knock off the rust and settle down, but he shot the approach back into the airport and hovered the machine just fine, in spite of 10 to 18 knot winds. Good on ya, O.P.D.!

We faced afternoon thunderstorms when we left Roswell, and dodged them on the way to landing at Plainview, TX.. We dodged some more on our way to landing at Clinton, OK.. Clinton is a great place to overnight because they have courtesy cars waiting for transient pilots......
keys under the overhead visors! They'll get my business every time I can land here.

We are fed, watered, and relaxing while catching up on the news. All is well.
And the "Best Plan" is to realize that no matter how well you plan, the plan will change.
Be flexible, consider all alternatives, and choose your best options.
In other words: "Don't worry, be happy!"

10 August 2006

Dateline: Torrance, California

My body thinks it is midnight. The clock says it is 10 P.M..

We are safely in the Ramada Inn in Torrance, CA., a block from where they assemble Robinson Helicopters. We're tired, but what could have been a horrible experience with the newly installed emergency screening measures turned out to be only a minor inconvenience. We checked the bag with our toothpaste and deodorant in it. TSA officers were more prevalent and did "spot checks" of ladies purses and some hand-carried baggage as we were in line to board the airplane, but it all went smoothly.

Larry and Mary Kay provided wheels to "El Zarape" for a wonderful Mexican dinner and great fellowship. Thank you both!

The money is in place. Weather permitting, with the paperwork completed in the morning, we'll be Eastbound along I-10 once again, with a new R44.

I'll keep ya posted.

08 August 2006

Trip #18

No, I never tire of it.
The plan is to arrive LAX Thursday, late afternoon. A beloved friend, one of my Crew Chiefs from Viet Nam will come with his wife and provide wheels to dine at a great Mexican restaurant. It'll be nice to catch up on what has transpired since our last meeting, then rehash old lies we have told one another a dozen times.

Up bright and early Friday morning, if all goes well, we hope to spend Friday night with Mr. and Mrs. Ole Prairie Dog again. That is feasible, given the fact that we'll be flying an R44 this time, cruising at 120 knots. Please pray for a bit of a tailwind for the entire day on Friday!
Weather will be a factor...... there have been fires at Big Bear, and rain all along our route over the past couple weeks. Prayers/thoughts will be appreciated.

Again, I'll have my laptop along for the ride and will post about anything out of the ordinary that happens along the way.

I spoke earlier about the physics of flying and how now and then learning to fly will cause a "light bulb moment". Maybe I can give you one of those now?

Imagine you are riding a bicycle or motorcycle. You are cruising at an easy, comfortable pace. You take your hands off the handlebars and steer the machine momentarily by shifting your weight. Now, reach down with your right hand and pull the handlebar back towards you......... what happens to the machine? Why?
Do you have access to a bike? Go try!
(Again, helicopter pilots are excluded from this discussion!)

I'll have your answer, and an explanation, later.
C'mon smarties, show me your stuff!

07 August 2006


Nothing much goin' on here.
My family is fine. Hope yours is too.
I was just thinking of you and wanted to drop you a line.
Email when you can.

I timed that note above. It took me 45 seconds to write it, and I'm no typist.

I got another one today......
One of those notes that begins, "Why I send Forwards".
I bet you've gotten this note too........
Some lame note about thinking about you and not having time to write.

My note took 45 seconds, and I would much prefer receiving it than some crappy lie about forwarding junk to me because the sender was thinking of me and didn't have time to write!
If you don't have the 45 seconds it takes to tell me all is well but there is nothing to say, do me a favor?

When you think about filling my mailbox with someone else's stupid thoughts......

(Okay, I feel better now!)

04 August 2006


There were six of us packed into a 1960 Ford Falcon........
a car only slightly larger than a VW Beetle.
Grandparents, Mom and Dad, Sis and I, mighty cozy with one another.
Grandpa at the wheel, it was raining cats and dogs outside the car.
I vividly remember him turning to me with a smile, saying, "The engine runs better in the rain."

Do you believe that? I always did.
And it's one of those things we believe that's dead wrong.

The only thing about rain that is good for an engine is that rain normally comes with a drop in air temperature. The temperature drop makes the air more dense, and denser air does make an internal combustion engine perform better.

But the rain doesn't help. Rain brings higher humidity. Higher humidity means water vapor in the air, and water vapor is made of two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. The hydrogen molecules make the air less dense, which works against engine efficiency.
(It also impairs airfoil efficiency.)

Another misconception is wind.
My first instructor asked, "If you take off on a round trip flight with a 20 knot wind, does the tailwind on the return flight cancel out the headwind on the outbound flight?"
I answered "yes", and again was dead wrong.

To illustrate why, imagine I'm flying an aircraft that cruises at 100 miles per hour, and I'm flying to a heliport 50 miles away.
With no wind, the outbound and return legs will both be 30 minutes: 50 miles at 100 miles per hour = .5 hours, or 30 minutes. Therefore, with no wind the round trip flight will take one hour.

Now, let's assume a 50 m.p.h. headwind on the outbound leg. With this wind we'll cover the ground at 50 m.p.h. on the outbound leg, and 150 m.p.h. on the return flight. The outbound flight will take an hour: 50 miles at 50 m.p.h.. The return flight will take 20 minutes: 50 miles at 150 m.p.h. = 1/3rd of an hour, or 20 minutes. Total flight time with the wind: 1 hour 20 minutes. Any wind lengthens the overall flight-time. The wind has more time to impede the aircraft on the outbound leg than to assist the return flight. The stronger the wind, the worse the impact.

Learning to fly exposes you to a great deal of physics. I'm continually amazed at how many "light bulb" moments I have, where I realize I've known something all my life, and didn't know why what I knew was true. But there are a few things I have "known" all my life that simply aren't true. As I'm faced with those things in the future, I'll try to remember to bring them to your attention.