Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's Nostalgia Time Again

Seeing the wheels, connecting rods and gushing steam, made me reflect not only on the old steam trains, but also on some of the older planes I used to fly. In particular, I thought of the instrument panels, so different from the present, with their round glass dials. As I mused, I wondered about the "feel" of flying on the "gages" when there are none, just digital displays. What do all those data displays mean, or where do they come from anyway?

A quick review of the glass cockpit involves mainly the PFD or primary flight display. This should depict attitude, airspeed, altitude as well as other data such as vertical speed and yaw. That's a lot on one instrument, obviating quite a bit of scanning as was previously required to obtain the same info. The point I am trying to make is that all the data previously was on individual dials and somehow made us aware of its importance by just being there. Yes, therfore one or the other bits of data represented by these dials could be overlooked as the data would not be posted in front of your nose, but might be tucked in an out of the way place. One thing that still worries me is possible screen failure. I know that there are two screens that can have the data switched back and forth. That is some comfort, as are the back-up individual old "round dials".

Finally, it's back to basics again. The recent crash of a Cessna 500 type jet in good VFR weather was just horrifying. The pilot (according to the NTSB), made two approaches, both apparently too high and probably too fast. tried to force the plane down onto the runway with disasterous results. It just can't be done fellow pilots. Whether it is a Cirrus or a 747, if there is enough air speed over the lifting surfaces to provide lift, the plane is going to want to keep flying. Here I am excluding anti-lift devices, not commonly found on smaller type planes. This poor pilot apparently tried to challenge this principle. According to the NTSB report he touched down midfield on the nose wheel, then slammed down the mains losing control of the plane, ending up in a ball of fire, killing all five occupants.

In closing, I urge all to stick to the basics of aerodynamics. Don't be a test pilot unless your name is something like Yaeger.
Remember, keep it safe.