Tom, a private pilot from California, writes: On a recent Southwest flight I decided, as I wasn’t the one flying the plane, that I’d enjoy a drink and I ordered a Jack and Coke. The flight attendant brought me a cup of ice, a warm can of soda, and a miniature. It tasted great, but by the time I took the last gulp, my head was spinning. What the heck happened to me? It’s only 50 ml of alcohol. I drink way more than that on the ground. Why was it different in the air?[Read more…]
Michael, a commercial pilot from New Jersey, writes: “In fixed-wing airplanes that require two pilots, the captain sits on the left. Why is that?”
Because it’s easier for left-handed pilots, like me, to fly from the left seat, and we all know that lefties make the best pilots. Next question…
What..? What’s that? You say 90% of the pilot population disagrees with me?
Oh. Well, I guess there must be some other explanation, then. So let’s dig into it.[Read more…]
Kathy, a non-pilot navigator from Texas, asks: Who founded the “Mile High Club?”
Embarrassing true story (but probably not the one you’re expecting): When I was first learning to fly at age 17, I really, really, really wanted a set of pilot’s wings. All pilots have wings, right?
Of course, then as now, most wings are military issue. There are no official GA Pilot wings. Anyway, looking through the latest issue of the Sporty’s Pilot Shop catalog at the flight school, I found a handsome set of pilot’s wings that said “Mile High Club” on them.
The accompanying descriptive text in the catalog was somewhat vague. It said something like “show your membership in this exclusive club.” Remember, this was before the Internet, so getting the real skinny on something mysterious wasn’t as easy as it is now.
Even though the pin said “club” on it, there was no membership requirement to buy the wings, so I assumed any pilot who flew more than a mile high above sea level was eligible to wear the wings. Easy for me, training in Colorado. I ordered a pair at once and wore them proudly on my new flight jacket.
Thank God my mother didn’t know what the Mile High Club really was. [Read more…]
James, a student pilot from Wisconsin, writes: “I know that, like many of the names of airplane parts, aileron is French, but what does it mean? And why are there so many French words in aviation, anyway? Wasn’t the airplane invented in the USA?”
First to ailerons. Aileron translates to little wing or small wing. For those of you who are detail-oriented, aile is French for wing, and the suffix on is a common masculine diminutive in the French language. In addition to being an airplane part, the word aileron is also apparently used in French to describe the flight control feathers of birds.
As to why we use a French word for our wing’s control surfaces, many people will tell you it’s because the French invented them, but that’s not true. Sorry. Instead, it was an Englishman, Matthew Piers Watt Boulton. In 1864.[Read more…]
Dispatch from my living room coffee table, Apache Springs, New Mexico: Hot wings. Deep fried mozzarella sticks with marinara dipping sauce. Pinwheel sandwiches. Pigs in a blanket. Potato skins. Potato chips with sour cream and onion dip. Corn chips with salsa, fiery queso dip, and guacamole. A veggie platter. Crustless baloney sandwiches. And fortune cookies.
It’s a lot of food for five people.
In our defense, it was our first super bowl party, so we didn’t really know what we were doing. And yes, it took longer to prepare the food than it did to watch the big game itself.
Of course, it wasn’t the actual Super Bowl, but a game closer to my family’s heart. Yep, thanks to our new DVR recorder, the historically hard-to-find on the dial Red Bull Air Race World Championship can be watched at any time. Like, say, on a Sunday afternoon.
That Roman emperor-sized feeding frenzy accompanied the broadcast of the second race of this season, from Cannes, last April. And while we missed the kick-off race in Abu Dhabi, we’ve caught every race since, and got caught up in the TV sport of Red Bull Air Racing in a big, big way. [Read more…]
Dispatch from Restricted Area 5111B: This is it. I key my mike, and in my most professional pilot voice, broadcast: “Good morning Spaceport America, Erco, flight of 22, 10 miles south for landing.”
I turn to my son Rio and smile ear to ear. A year and a half of hard work has finally paid off. He gives me a thumbs up. Then the radio crackles in my headset and I hear, “Good morning Erco Zero-Two-Two. Wind three-three-zero at seven.”
I deflate. I know it didn’t sound like much, but I’d actually spent a lot of time planning what to say on that radio call announcing the arrival of our fleet of Ercoupes at America’s first purpose-built Spaceport. [Read more…]
Dispatch from Jose’s Bar and Grill on Route 66: Iconic radio broadcaster Paul Harvey was famous for his “The Rest of the Story” reports, which dug deeper into headline stories or found little known and forgotten gems of modern history.
He liked to end the broadcast segment, which reached 24 million people on 1,200 radio stations, with, “and now you know… the rest of the story.”
Recently, people are asking me for the rest of the story.
Oh, not for Paul Harvey’s story. Everyone knows he was an avid aviator, a 50-year-plus member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), major fan of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and early investor in Cirrus Aircraft.
The story everyone is asking me about is the rest of my engine story. [Read more…]
Some people say air racing is dead. I say those folks aren’t playing with a full deck.
Not only is the game of air racing alive and well, this year I was dealt a royal flush, and won a huge pot of fun. [Read more…]
Dispatch from the Brickyard, Indianapolis, Indiana: I’m trying to decide if the 2014 California Avalon Cabernet or the 2017 Columbia Valley 14 Hands Merlot will go better with my goat cheese, pear, and micro arugula beet cup. Well, what the hell, it’s an open bar… I’ll start with the Cab and follow it up with the Merlot when I sample the braised beef en croute.
I pass the elegantly printed menu to my wife and lean back on the richly padded white leather sofa. To my left is one of the three bars in the Sky Lounge. Above it, the largest TV outside of Times Square. To my right, tastefully arranged seating groups of couches are interspaced with bar-height tables decked out with crisp linen, fresh flowers, sparkling wine glasses, and polished flatware.
Wearing black ties, waiters and waitresses circulate among the race fans, carrying trays of hors d’oeuvres. Doormen open the double glass doors of the lounge as a shuttle van deposits another half dozen fans at the end of the red carpet for the finals of the 2017 Red Bull Air Race season. Now this is the way to enjoy an air race.
It’s just too bad there’s no racing going on. [Read more…]
The guy from the National Weather Service was late because of the rain. You gotta love the irony.
But the deluge from the heavens didn’t dampen the spirits of the thousands of soaked-to-the-skin young people who roamed the tarmac of White Sands Regional Airport in Alamogordo, N.M., popping into hangar after hangar as part of the New Mexico Aviation Aerospace Association STEM Expo on Oct. 5, 2017. [Read more…]