No Coffin in My Corner – Airplane Talk Demystified

One of the strangest flight characteristics to the uninitiated non-pilot types, or even fixed wing private pilots, is that jet aircraft have aerodynamic qualities in the upper flight level that are a design limitation: They can both overspeed and fall out of the sky, at pretty much the same speed.

Coffin corner is a great concept to explore since it is both the yin and yang of flight. Or put another way, it is a strange intersection of where too slow meets too fast. The most noteable accident that was a stall that started near coffin corner was Air France 447, which is a good example because after suffering the effects of it, the crew wasn’t able to diagnose that a stall had even happened.  Continue reading

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BFL and why it matters

BFLFor those pilots out there this post will cause you to wonder “why is he writing that?” followed by: “I know about that.”

I know you do – this isn’t for you.  It’s for everyone else.  With the high profile accident at Bedford, MA (KBED) this past weekend with a Gulfstream G-IV N121JM running off the departure end of its runway, it at least warranted a post.  While the cause of the accident is yet to be determined, a lot of our non-flying followers and members queried us about what happened.  While we can’t answer, we thought it at least appropriate to have a balanced field length or BFL explanation since when everything works as advertised, balanced field length is what makes every departure, or aborted take off go smoothly.

The good news is that BFL is all about safety.  And while a non-pilot will never have to compute it, knowing what it is will at least make you feel better about those hot and heavy take offs on days when you think that the airplane is working extra hard.  Continue reading

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Accepting Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

1200px-MQ-9_Reaper_in_flight_(2007)Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or Drones) to the rest of us, are something that we all kind of know is growing (8.5% of US Air Force as of this article) but somehow we think that we won’t be around when the sky is darkened by them or our next airline flight is done with no one up front.  For now we’ve accepted that they handle most surveillance and virtually all of the dark stuff that the military might want to try without putting an actual person in harm’s way. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are relevant since they highlight just how integrated our lives are becoming with automation, technology and the omnipresence of the eye in the sky.

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Staying Relevant as an Astronaut or Bus Driver

900px-Astronaut-EVAGlamor fades.  Whether it is the sun, radiation, or just the sum total of alcohol consumed by pilots, the trend is that we are on our way out.  And many of us don’t like such talk.  But this article on Sully and the Miracle on the Hudson really brought it home for me.  Learning years ago was harder since you had to do more of it yourself.  With a pen.  Or pencil.  And an E6B maybe.  Oh, and a watch.

The best quote from the article might have been: “Twenty-five years ago, we were a step below astronauts,” says one veteran pilot. “Now we’re a step above bus drivers. And the bus drivers have a better pension.” Continue reading

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Surfair Suffering from Convention

Pilatus_PC_12Revolution is tough without that disruptive nugget.  Not having that nugget has led Surfair to retreat into the conventional operation of what could have been a novel membership based system.  I’ve followed them since their birth since I’m no stranger to the concept of moving Pilatus PC-12s around with people in them whilst attempting to make money.  What was great about Surfair, is that they validated our own Grabajet aspirations that I had designed with my business partner.

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The Way Flying Machines Should Look

X-48B_from_aboveAs a big fan of simplicity, biomimicry and a few other big words that designers and engineers throw around, I like to think of the reality of our current design paradigm as stuck.  Stuck with convention, regulation and conformity.  Leaving the herd makes it hard for us to imagine how things should move through the air if the herd weren’t so dogmatic about how an aircraft should look. But there’s good news.  Looking at what Boeing and NASA have done in the pure research realm of the X-48, you’ll notice a trend.  The cutting edge stuff (stealth bomber, etc.) is trending towards our friends the birds.

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Simulation for Management?

eddypilotLike Noam Chomsky, I’m not a huge fan of NPR, but when I do listen, I’m sure to put on my critical thinking hat in order to evaluate whether it’s leakage from mainstream media or something of actual value.  The news that the CEO of Yahoo was going to require all employees to come into work made me think of something odd about the dusty back corners of management in the global aviation industry.  It really is stuck in the 1950s. Continue reading

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