12 June 2013

Stupid pilot tricks

I come from a long line of pilots.  My grandfather was a pilot licensed in 30's.  My uncle (same same grandpa's son) was licensed in the 60's.  Dad wanted to earn his license in the early 60's and could have learned for $100.  But at the time he was a Captain in the Army with a wife and two kids and earned $108/month.  The license was just not in the cards at the time.  Dad later earned his certificate some 40 years later at age 60.  I earned mine in 1989.

Years ago I was at my uncle's place the night before an early morning departure for OshkoshIron Eagle was on the vid.  The race scene between Doug and his high school rival came on:

My uncle paused the movie to explain something to the effect of "my sons know if they ever pull something like this they will be grounded for life". I suspect that speech was as much for my benefit as reinforcement for my cousins.

No need, but no offense taken either... I have a strong sense of self preservation.  Altitude is my friend.  Altitude is time and distance should the engine quit or some other emergency.  Today that self preservation expands to the immediate family.  My worst case scenario is a crash that takes out the family.  2nd worst is a crash that takes me away from them.

Fast forward to present day and today's stupid pilot tricks.  Via AvWeb.  A pilot crashes attempting low level aerobatics in a plane not certified for aerobatics.  Takes out himself and a cousin.  NTSB report here.

Said pilot was apparently 34.  One thing that is really tough to teach is "judgement".

Some of my best flying memories were flying with my good friend Steve in his Yak.  One day we were flying along and he called over the intercom "OK, give me a loop".
Me:  "ok... how?  I've never even tried it on Flight sim."
"Well easy,  Put the nose down until airspeed reaches 90 potatos*... about there."
"then pull back on the stick until you see 3 1/2 G's."
"ease off over the top....and add more stick as we round out on the bottom."

Even better were the stall turns.
"Full power as you pull vertical,  look out at the wingtips to see your angle to the horizon.  As the airspeed drops through 40 kick hard rudder and opposite aileron and it piroettes nicely over the top."

Except when the kick is late and there is insufficient airflow over the control surfaces doesn't give control authority to complete the maneuver.  That leaves the aircraft hanging at about 120 deg pitch and 20 degrees yaw.  Ok, that didn't work... reduce power to idle and wait for the heavy end (the engine) to come down first.  Now recover from the resulting dive.  And try again.

Fun  times.

This all works just fine and is as safe as swimming in your  backyard pool as long as there is altitude below to effect the recovery.

These guys started their fatal maneuver at 220 AGL.  They had no room.

Aerobatics are fun in a proper aircraft and with plenty of altitude below for the recovery. Starting a roll at 220 ft AGL in an aircraft not certified for aerobatics is.... stupid, insane, ill conceived...

And potentially... Fatal.

*  the rear cockpit still had Rooskie gauges and we never quite figured out the airspeed units.  It was easier to assign arbitrary units and just go with the number on the face. We called said units "potatos".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Way back in the late 60's I went along for a ride with a new pilot who was stationed aboard my ship. The part where we flew UNDER the power lines that feed the city of Long Beach CA is pretty firmly etched in my memory! It wasn't bravery - the engine faltered while doing touch n goes at an uncontrolled grass strip. That was the first of three "adventures" on that flight AND the last time I ever flew with him!!!