Top Letters And Comments, August 7, 2020

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Buying The Old Ones: Homework Mandatory

Absolutely agree–old airplanes DO fly differently than produced today. Robert Gilruth from NACA was the author of setting standards of how airplanes should handle–and that didn’t happen until 1937. I’ve flown more than 330 unique types of airplanes (depending on how you count them)–including many antiques–and later airplanes that had their original type certificates issued before that date. His work helped to eliminate surprises when pilots transitioned from one aircraft to another.

Some older airplanes have different flight characteristics built-in. A pilot may anticipate that a Stearman might be blind on takeoff or landing due to the engine and fuselage, but be completely unaware that visibility to the side and forward may be lost due to the forest of wings and struts–or the drag built into biplanes–you need to get the nose down immediately with the power off–far more than you may be used to with a slick airplane. Control harmony may be different, with lots of adverse aileron yaw, and a too-small rudder to compensate.

Not all antiques are bad–I’m currently checking out a pilot and giving a tailwheel endorsement to the owner of a PT-19 he inherited from his Dad. The PT 19–23–26 series were built by Fairchild as WW II trainers. While not as robust as the Stearman Pt-series, the open-cockpit aircraft were better able to prepare pilots for fighter aircraft. They were low wing–the controls were beautifully harmonized and balance–aerodynamically and mass balanced, and used ball bearings and actuating rods instead of cables. They were heavy–175 hp was not enough–the follow-ons had more power because it was NEEDED (the Tuskeegee Airmen originally trained for fighters in the Pt-19, but it was unable to safely climb above the surrounding terrain in hot weather, so Stearmans were substituted. The airplane is capable of aerobatics, but given the wooden center section and the fact that it tends to rot if moisture is allowed to enter the open cockpit, aerobatics should be limited. With low power, it takes a long time to get to aerobatic altitudes.

That said, the airplane is a delight to fly, with well-harmonized and light controls. it is without exception the easiest airplane to wheel land that I’ve ever flown (and there have been a lot of them)–with the heavy tail, use of split flaps, and long landing gear struts. BECAUSE it is so easy to fly, I’m going to make my student fly my Cessna 120 before I sign him off for his tailwheel endorsement.

Enjoy flying antiques–but get a good checkout from someone knowledgeable, and join the type club–you’re going to need advice. Perhaps the best part of flying antiques and classics is the fact that it literally takes you back to the days when those airplanes were first developed–you get to experience what aviation was like then–when pilots were Special People that delighted in mastering new and different airplanes.

Jim H.

Accident Probe: No Idea What’s Going On

All good comments and the pilot’s inability to manually fly the airplane was a gross factor. But, he also was unable to use the Garmin 750 navigator. His training on it was inadequate. But, the human interface of the navigator was also a factor that made it hard to use. Better pilot interface design would have helped this pilot.

Rudolf M.

I hope my comments are helpful to someone close to my age. I am 89. I have a CFII rating which I acquired many years ago but never used. I have 1800 hours in light twins. I sold my C310 five years ago because I felt I was getting too old to handle it. I switched to a C172 which I fly 60 to 70 hours a year. I am instrument current and either file instruments or ask for flight following when I take a short trip to visit family or friends. I will continue flying as long as I can pass my physical and get insurance. And incidentally I don’t have an autopilot but do go up with an instructor a couple of times a year to stay sharp.

Adib B.

Poll: Did You Watch the Dragon Splashdown?

  • Yes, and it was interesting to see how well they performed an old trick.
  • Didn’t know it was happening.
  • Yes, it was dull. The deorbit is a lot more interesting than a parachute ride.
  • Busy flying.
  • In total dismay at the fact that private boaters had access to the site…
  • Watched SpaceX YouTube a few hours after splashdown.
  • No, I was at the airport! Watched the launch, though.
  • Wrong time zone for me – Australia.
  • There was so much ra-ra-ra on NASA twitter that I unfollowed it. I am an enthusiast for space exploration and its engineers, but not for empty-headed self-praise. BTW, my degrees are in literature (UK).
  • Viewed online.
  • Of course! Live on nasa.gov.
  • I wish I would have caught it live but was not aware they returned until the next day. I would have definitely watched if I had known.
  • Watched, glad I recorded it. The coverage was one of the worst presentations I’ve ever watched.
  • Fools – system is not mature.
  • No, only saw what was broadcast on the national newsfeeds.
  • There was a splashdown?
  • I watched it later on YouTube.
  • Watched it…insipid commenters made me lose interest. Thought it was rerun, anyway!
  • Yes, but it was less than terrific coverage.
  • I would have liked to, but wasn’t in daylight hours in my time zone.
  • They scheduled the splashdown outside of prime television hours, so I missed it.
  • No internet.
  • Watched the video.
  • Not impressed with 1961 tech reboot.
  • Didn’t hear about it.
  • Nah, I actually forgot it was happening.
  • Watched the replay.
  • Out flying.
  • Played back the stream a couple hours later.
  • Nope, I forgot it was happening.
  • The last 15 minutes.
  • Was not aware.
  • What is the Dragon?

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