Top Letters And Comments, April 29, 2022


Plane Swap Gone Half Bad; FAA Not Amused

Back when aviation was nascent and exploring boundaries there could be some acceptance of the dare devil, the showman, because just getting up in one was seen as a risk. It can also be noted that even if filmed, the number of people who (1) watched it and (2) had access to try and repeat or be inspired was very small. Most barn-stormers did their thing in front of locals with mainly word of mouth popularity. By WWII those that took risks did so by pushing boundaries that helped expand aviation (longer distances, faster speeds, higher altitudes etc.). They pushed technology with the risks that then turned into next generation of airplanes.

Aviation today is mature; it is reliable and the world is both smaller and more populated so the idea of taking risks has the potential for putting people in harms ways. Moreover, what’s the point. I agree with the FAA’s that this stunt served no public interest, it certainly did not promote a positive aspect of aviation, and it only served to help promote a company.

All that said, my issue is that when told “No”, both the company and people involved thumbed their noses, ignored a lawful command and did it any way. That is the bad example here, not two thrill seekers getting a hard-on for their action. It is becoming disturbing how often this is happening today and yet the general attitude is “who cares”. I’ve said this before, but Rules, Laws, they hold back chaos and anarchy and honestly, I don’t think we want to live in a world where anything goes if you can get away with it.

If those two want to potentially destroy airplanes and kill themselves, I would say go at it, but find a country that does not care. In a country that does, respect the rules, change the rules, or leave, but don’t just ignore them. I wonder if this would have been done if the FAA had said “Sure, go ahead, but you cannot film it or post it publicly”. This was not for STEM, it was for promotion and all involved that decided to go ahead after the rejection needs to be punished.

I do agree that things like Red Bull Air racing, Reno Air racing and aerobatic exhibitions do serve a public interest and are fairly well regulated for safety while still providing the “thrills” aspect as well as discovering more efficient aerodynamics, better training for pilots, and perhaps better safety equipment.

The Taylorcraft video, this, and lest we forget the “emergency ditching” of a Bonanza off Catalina Island was for attention, money, and followers and not to benefit aviation.

Justin H.

I disagree with the comparisons with the other “stunts” Paul mentioned. There exists between pilots and the rest of ground-bound society an unspoken pact: we pilots will do our best to avoid hurting anyone or damaging property on the ground. If something goes wrong when a pilot is flying an aircraft through an empty tunnel, or when a daredevil jumps from a plane without a parachute there is little chance anyone other than the person involved will be injured. Once the two people involved in this plane-swap stunt exited their respective aircraft they ceded the primary means to hold up their end of the pact. (This is the reason–I suspect–the FAA chose not to issue a waiver.) This stunt would have lost little of its wow factor by keeping a safety pilot aboard both aircraft, to take control in the event something unexpected happened.

Mark S.

Impossible Turn Misconceptions

So, years ago, when I was an instructor, and our airport wasn’t as busy as it is now, I took a 152 up to see what it would be like to lose an engine at 400 feet. (This is when patterns where typically 800′ AGL.)

We had (and have) parallel runways, albeit a little close together. And not as long as they are today. (KDVT.)

IIRC, I either went up to the Tower or called by landline, explaining what I wanted to do. I was given clearance for takeoff, “cleared to land any runway.” I did about five.

What I found was: IF you lose an engine at 400 feet, and IF you act right away, and IF you roll into a 45-degree bank in the descent, and IF the winds aren’t too strong (blowing you back toward the runway), then you can make it safely to the parallel runway – in a 152.

IIRC, I wasn’t able to make a teardrop back to the departure runway. Only a 180 degree turn to the parallel.

In real life, I dunno. I had the airport to myself when I did this. If someone were doing T’n’G’s on the parallel runway, that would eliminate returning to the parallel rwy. (Maybe land on a taxi way?) And I doubt, in real life, that I would be able to tell the Tower what my plan was after declaring an Emergency. (Assuming that I could get a word in edgewise on a busy Saturday. And it is dual frequency Tower, so the poor guy on the parallel won’t know of my Emergency, even if the two Tower Controllers could coordinate in a split second.) Nor does this take into account oil on the windshield, smoke in the cockpit, or some other distraction like that.

Of course, in a non-parallel runway situation, this option is totally out.

While I taught “land straight ahead,” that option is not as palatable today as it was then, given all the new development the airport. Still, I suppose the old adage, “Hit the softest, cheapest thing as slowly as possible” still has merit.

Era P.

Let’s talk about airspeed for a second. Maybe I missed it, but it the only mention I heard was “best glide airspeed”. Ugh.

Best glide airspeed gets you the best distance for foot of altitude lost (the inverse of Vx)… but while I’m turning around, I want least altitude lost per second (the inverse of Vy). The minimum sink airspeed (which glider pilots know well) is a little slower than best glide. A 45-deg bank at min-sink will result in a surprisingly tight turn.

Second, best glide varies with wind. When you turn back, you’ll probably have a tailwind, so your best glide airspeed will be slower.

Most importantly, this was an hour-long video with no real math. It left us with an understanding of how complex the decision is (and I love the idea of pre-briefing) and an awareness of the factors that go into finding a solution. But it didn’t include a workable process for applying that understanding. I’d love to see a practical video on how to determine if you can make that runway so your decision is fact based.


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