Wednesday, September 05, 2007

More Aviating....

Much seems to be going on in the world of Aviaiting this week just passed.
Last week Paul MacCready died. He was an aviation and man-powered flight pioneer - but his name was familiar to this chap because an instrument in the old sopwith glider is named after him.
MacCready was an accomplished glider pilot and had won national competitions in the USA - and it was competitive gliding which led him to study the aeronautical behaviour of a glider in rising and sinking air - he went on to invent an instrument to help him.
The MacCready ring sits around the variometer - a kind of very sensitive rate of climb meter. The vario tells you if you are in air that is rising or falling - and allows you to judge if you are in a thermal or other lift source.
His device is a simple loop around the Vario - configured for each aeroplane and allows you to read off a recommended glide speed if you are in sinking air.
Thus in the aircraft I fly at the moment - 3 knots of sinking air I can instantly see requires an airspeed of 55 knots for best glide.

Simple and effective.

Have a read of his obituary here:
Paul MacCready

Another glider pilot with a record to his name is also in the news - of what we all hope is not the same reason.

Steve Fossett is an accomplished aviator and has a wealth of experience to draw upon.

Here
and Here

What caught my ear was the usual hyperbole from the lazy journalist on the radio - spouting a standard FAA line.

(The FAA is the US equivalent of the CAA - known here as the Campaign Against Aviation.)

'He wasn't wearing a parachute and flew from an unlicensed strip and failed to file a flight plan.'

That ol' chestnut.

Perhaps if the chap doing the reporting had done a bit of digging he would have discovered that in powered aircraft it isn't the norm to wear a parachute at all - except if you are flying distance at night.
He may have also discovered that almost all airstrips are 'unlicensed'.

He should at least have discovered and drawn a correlation between the purpose of his flight and the requirements to actually file a flight plan:

Fossett was seeking out dried lake beds to attempt a land speed record. You file a flight plan to fly in controlled airspace - which is normally many thousands of feet above the ground.
He wouldn't have been looking for long flat places from 5-6000 feet - it all looks pretty similar from up there.

He was probably below radar cover - so his transponder wouldn't traspond anyway - so no excuses there for them to harp on about his instruments.

So - he wouldn't have filed a flight plan, worn a parachute and taking off from an unlicensed strip is normal.

He's an experienced glider pilot - and as with power - you learn rough field landings.

Yet - it makes for better story copy to go on about the things he hasn't done - that you would expect from a civil airliner - and it makes the whole thing sound that little bit more risky.

We get this sort of hyperbole in sailing too.

We have all seen the sort of headlines:
''A man crashed his luxury 30 foot yacht in the Solent yesterday after failing to inform the coastguard of his movements''.

I know of very few 30 foot yachts that are 'luxury', and If you told the coastguard of movements in the Solent, they will tell you to get knotted.

Anyway - good luck Steve - we all hope you are sitting under your wing awaiting rescue.

UPDATE: Seems His 'wrist mounted' EPIRB (GPS distress beacon) is Off - meaning the chances are, He's bought the farm.
It's sad - but like many an Aviator - I'm sure it is the way he would have wanted to go.

2 comments:

Kate said...

Or, an alternative view ...

http://www.bryanappleyard.com/blog/2007/09/steve-fossett-addict.php

Nicodemus said...

It was selfish nutters like Steve from days of yore who first flew the atlantic, flew in the first place and crossed deserts. He was doing it with his own money and raising the standards in the sports he took part in.