P-38 recovered from a glacier; resumes trip to England
The exciting new home of America's most beloved Matt Shobe resource.
Thursday morning, AOPA President Phil Boyer appeared live on CNN's American Morning with anchor Miles O'Brien, a pilot and AOPA member. Speaking from AOPA's headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, via the association's TV studio and satellite uplink, Boyer told the TV audience that a car or a truck would be a much more effective terrorist weapon than a small aircraft. "No small plane has been used as a weapon of terror," Boyer said. Then a few hours later, Boyer took CBS correspondent Bob Orr and camera team flying in Boyer's Cessna 172, to help him understand airspace.
In the chart above, you can see the blue border around the East River; that denotes the edges of the "uncontrolled" airspace which Lidle's plane was traversing. That is about as narrow as a band of designated airspace can get.
I’ve been reading what I can about the Cory Lidle tragedy and I’ve come to the following conclusions:
“Why was the flight taken? The clouds over Manhattan had bases in the 1700- to 2000-foot range. Winds were at 17 knots, gusting to 22 knots. It's certainly possible to fly safely in such conditions, but it takes more concentration. Now add to it the fact that Lidle and his instructor were flying in one of busiest and most constricted airspaces in the world. Even more concentration is needed. Your cup is probably full at this point, even with an instructor aboard. You have no margin for error if anything goes awry.”
"I can tell you right now that a Cessna 150 is filed on every Al Qaeda cell lead's Thinkpad under "Martyr Operation aircraft of very last resort, Insh'allah." It weighs less than a Ford Focus and has a usable cargo load of about 300 pounds, excluding the pilot. Packed with C-4 or some similar explosive, sure, it could cause trouble. I think our foes are still thinking bigger than this, however."
"A Cessna 150 is an extremely small two-seat airplane. Even fully loaded it weighs significantly less than a Honda Civic. It's simply incapable of doing much damage," said Boyer. "From what we can tell, these pilots simply made the mistake of getting lost in some of the most complex and highly regulated airspace in the country."
"The incident began at 11:28 a.m., when Federal Aviation Administration radar picked up the aircraft, a small two-seater Cessna 150 with high wings, officials said. The aircraft breached the security zone over Washington, law enforcement officials said, prompting alerts across the city."
This is something I've been meaning to post since I returned from Hong Kong, but I simply haven't had the time to do so.
I flew United to and from Hong Kong with their nonstop service from Chicago. It's about 14 hours in the air, and it's the sort of flight plan that pushes up against the comfortable limits of modern commercial air travel -- even if you're in upgraded business class. I was sitting in the upper deck section (highly recommended for this trip if you can score the upgrade with miles) and before our noon takeoff I managed to get a few minutes with the pilots and flight engineer in the cockpit. (Paradoxically, the everyday security paranoia that permeates domestic commercial service is a bit restrained overseas; at the gate they kept the cockpit door open and seemed happy to chat for a couple of minutes right up until they got word that everyone was on board and the flight was ready for an early push-back.) After showing me the obligatory cockpit copy of "Flying for Dummies" with all the expected yuk-yuks, I asked them a few questions about their flight planning approach and why there was no air traffic control on Channel 9 when the flight neared the arctic circle.
I got a few interesting tidbits out of them:
When takeoff actually happened, I think we got off the ground at about the 9,000 foot mark. Knowing at that moment exactly how much mass that aircraft was hoisting into the low seaside overcast gave me some added appreciation for just how well designed (and piloted) commercial aircraft are today.
Once enroute, I decided to record some of the air traffic control communications near mainland China. I figured they would be different enough from the usual general aviation chatter I hear over Chicagoland that they'd be worth sharing. How did I record it? That was a fun hack to cook up:
I later edited the following file down from ten minutes to just under two minutes, saving the three most interesting exchanges (which are admittedly pretty hum-drum, but you pays your money and takes your seat for this show). Here's the audio:
"Searchers located Saturday the wreckage of a privately owned Soviet-era MiG-17 fighter plane that crashed, killing the pilot, while en route to the Arizona air show.
The body of George Cambron, 50, of Louisville, was found in the wreckage 12 miles northwest of Truth or Consequences, state police Lt. Pat Werick said.[...]First manufactured in Russia in the 1950s, the MiG-17 was used in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The FAA said the aircraft often are brought to the United States and converted into airplanes used for pleasure."
"On December 7, 2003, at 1600 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 172N, N739SU, lost engine power and collided with the ground while executing a forced landing 8 miles west of Snelling, California. The American School of Aviation was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The student pilot and a designated examiner were not injured, and the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The instructional flight originated at Castle Airport, Atwater, California, at 1545.
The student pilot reported to the Safety Board investigator that about 10 minutes into his private pilot check flight, at 3,000 feet, the engine made a loud noise and smoke entered the cockpit. The smoke seemed to originate from the engine. The engine lost power and was not responding to throttle adjustments. The designated examiner took the airplane's controls and selected a green field into which to perform a forced landing. During the landing touchdown the nose wheel caught the ground, and the airplane nosed over on to its back. The aircrew safely egressed the airplane.
Source: Planenews Aviation News Portal
If you fly a lot, you might start to take an interest in the different airplanes that get you from here to there. However, unless you're obsessed with mechanical detail in a way that has you making peculiar points at awkward breaks in casual cocktail conversation like I do, you probably haven't concerned yourself with the feature that sets an A319 and an A320 apart at a glance, or taken pride in calling a 777 from a 767 a mile out just by viewing the main gear. See what I mean about the cocktail thing?
But I know you probably want to demonstrate unusual savvy among your traveling colleagues and even wow the gate agent from time to time to max your odds of a longshot standby seat, so in that spirit I give you the following planespotting tips, absolutely royalty free. Use them to win bets, settle disputes, and otherwise fill dead air. Just be careful when you tread that fine line between conversationalist and know-it-all. It's a mighty thin one and I've got the road paint on my boots to prove it.
Disclaimer: This knowledge generally covers aircraft in service over the US 'cause
that's where i've spent 95% of my flight time.
|1. The venerable 727|
Where have the 727s gone? We always flew those to Disneyworld when I was a kid.
There are essentially no 727s (three engines in the rear: two on either side, one above in the tail) in frontline carrier service. They're all too damn old. This is a good thing, trust me, because some of those dogs probably had a few million hours on the airframe (including, possibly, the Trump plane I've seen parked at Laguardia this December) before they went to the boneyard. FedEx still flies cargo in them, but you deserve far better shipping insurance for your bodily self. Still, the 727 was at one time a ubiquitous commercial airliner, in service with just about every carrier worth mentioning.
Today, if traveling in the US, you're far more likely to see American Airlines' MD-80s and Fokker 100s plying the taxiways around the terminal. Northwest operates a fleet of DC-9s, which are for all practical purposes indistinguishable from MD-80s; they are just different series of the same basic rear twin-engine aircraft.
|2. Tail-engined peers|
Today, a large number of aircraft preserve this general silhouette -- cigarette-thin body, T-shaped tail and powerplants in the rear -- because it remains an aerodynamically efficient and cost-effective design. Don't confuse an MD-80, Fokker 70/100, or even a CRJ with the venerable 727 because of it, though. The sure tipoff is that third engine in the tail. There have only been three major American aircraft to integrate a primary engine in the vertical stablizer this way; the other two will get mention later on in this posting. So, unless you're on a charter to Cuba or standing in the Age of Flight exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, that's not a 727 you're looking out of.
Ok, I get it with the 727. But what about the 737? I can never tell those
from Airbuses. Unless you fly a carrier that makes a big deal about its
homogenized fleet (JetBlue's all Airbus A320s, Southwest's purely 737s), you are
likely to get on a 737 or A319/320 if the flight's less than 1500 miles.
As long as the interiors are up-to-date, it'll be hard to tell them apart,
inside or out. Here are some keys to look for:
Tail. The 737's sweeps back at two discrete angles -- shallower at the
root, then steeper to the tip -- while the Airbus' tail rises directly
from the fuselage without incident. You've got it dead to rights on that
Wingtips. The A319/320/321 all sport Airbus' signature winglets, whereas 737-400 and
earlier series have unadorned wingtips. However, the upturned winglet found
on the 737-800, flown by ATA, is new twist that makes it a dead giveaway.
Cockpit. There are two "porthole" windows above the pilot and copilot viewports
on 737s -- a classic Boeing design. Airbuses have somewhat wider-looking
main panels, but no telltale portholes.
Engine nacelles. On today's
most common 737s, the engine body is not perfectly round but takes a more
elliptical, almost flat-bottomed profile, especially when seen from the
front. The fitting on the Airbus is much more cynlindrical.
Extra Credit: Telling Airbuses apart. If you really want to knock your Premier Exec 1K VP's socks off, keep this handy Airbus field identification tip handy: A320 has two overwing exits; A319 has just one. Unless you see two of them parked side-by-side, you won't likely be able to tell a 319 is a 319 any other way, even though it is a stubby little mutha. A 321 is a stretched 320 with no overwing exits, but 4 full-size exit doors. Huzzah!
|3. A320, meet 737. 737, meet A320|
The 757 is an airplane I fly all the time on United, but damned if I can tell one from the ground. What's the deal there? What am I missing?
The 757 is an ungainly stork of an aircraft on the ground. It seems to prop itself up on hopelessly frail undercarriage when trundling about the terminal, but once those are folded up I think the 757 cuts a nice profile in the air (and offers a smoother ride, even in the rear, than smaller fowl like the 737 and A320). Here's how to spot one from the ground without a second's worth of doubt.
|4. The thin-is-in 757, and the baby-got-back|
|5. Old Fogey Tri-jets|
vs. 767 The 757 has, pound-for-pound, the slimmest shape of any other plane
of its scale. If you look up and glimpse a very long and narrow shape
with two engines on the wing, smart money says it's a '57. 757s never look
stubby or compact and just a few glances at a 767 next to a 757 plainly reveal
the 767 as a much larger, fatter (and depending on class configuration, phatter)
aircraft. Look at the cockpit; there's a lot more cheek fat below the 767's
viewports. Meanwhile, the 757's underbody sweeps back almost horizontally
below the nose.
One other point on the 767 vs. the 777: They would be quite
hard to tell apart except for one indisguiseable fact: the 777 has six
wheels on each main landing gear truck; the 767 only has four. I think the
777's gear assembly is about the size of a Hummer H2, but it gets
about 6mpg better on the highway.
I'm old school. But I'm also gettin' old. I can't tell an L-1011 from a DC-10. Planespot them for me, dawg. Back to the topic of tail-mounted engines raised in our 727 coverage: The
Lockheed L-1011 (probably one of the best numeric names in commercial aviation)
and the DC-10 appear quite similar on the ramp of your favorite airport.
I say this because neither plane is still in service with a major carrier,
but I do see a fair number of DC-10s in FedEx livery. Anyway, telling L-1011s
from DC-10s is easy: you won't see an L-1011 unless you're flying a notable
carrier like "Hewa Bora Airways" or "Kampuchea Airlines." Yikes. That and
the telltale configuration of the aft engine. As you can see in Figure 5, the DC-10 configuration puts this engine body in the tail proper, while the L-1011 incorporates an "S duct" intake to a powerplant that's actually
part of the airframe proper.
I hope this information at least makes you take a second look outside the next time you're killing time at the gate. Let me know if you have questions not covered here! I do requests. In a future posting I'll tackle the Airbus A340 and several flavors of 747.