A flight in a small plane

Here’s the small Cessna plane in which I made the round-trip journey from St. Louis, Missouri to Kirksville, Missouri a few days ago. It was a seven-seater for Cape Air, having three rows of two seats for passengers and an extra passenger seat next to the pilot’s seat. That seat once held a co-pilot, but, so I was told, cost-cutting measures eliminated the second pilot. That, of course, means that if the one pilot has a heart attack, we’re in trouble. When I asked a flight-attendant friend what would happen if the pilot became incapacitated, she giggled and said, “You’re going down.”

But we didn’t, thank Ceiling Cat. And on the return leg I begged for (and got) the co-pilot’s seat! It was a great view, even though I had to keep my arms and legs retracted so I wouldn’t touch the co-pilot’s stick and rudder pedals.

P1070049

And the kindly pilot allowed me to take video from my seat.  So I took three short movies with my camera. 

Takeoff!

Descent through the clouds. Note the altimeter dropping (dial at extreme right, top):

The landing, which you can see was a bit turbulent until the end:

Here’s a shot of the cockpit; pilot readers will be able to gauge (no pun intended) the age of the plane. It did have an autopilot, but the pilot was constantly adjusting things, so I think he flew it manually. On the left can see the pilot’s hand on the “steering wheel” (I’m sure some reader will give me the correct name), while on the right the legs in jeans are mine.

P1070044

~

83 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Fun. It has been several decades since I’ve been on such a small plane.

  2. Paul Clapham
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I used to fly in small planes like that back in the 1980’s when I was going to Lloydminster, Alberta for a consulting assignment. Once we were landing in Calgary and I looked over the pilot’s shoulder at the altimeter, which said we were at 5,000 feet. I started worrying because I could clearly read the sign on the Safeway down on the ground. No way were we 5,000 feet up!

    But then reason kicked in and I remembered that Calgary was at 3,500 feet already. So we were really only 1,500 feet above the ground. Disaster averted.

    • madscientist
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Yeah – barometric altimeters are great fun. You need to make sure you get the current air pressure at the airport so you can twiddle knobs and get a better reading of your height above land. In aircraft with a radio altimeter you simply switch to the radio altimeter on your approach. About 30 years ago a jet pilot may have confused meters and feet and stalled the aircraft about 53m above the runway – that was disastrous.

  3. Markham
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Steering wheel = Yoke

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoke_(aeronautics)

    Cheers,
    Markham

    • Bob J.
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      or “stick”

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        Not literally a stick in this case. When the control comes up out of the floor and is a rod that you hold in one hand, like the Fleet Canuck that I trained on, that’s a stick.

  4. Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Did you notice the perfect images of Jerry taking the picture and someone (the pilot?) touching his chin reflected in two of the gauges?

    • Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      I saw that too; great effect. Makes for a really cool picture!

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      Yep, you beat me to remarking on it. As if Jerry waited forever for just the right lighting angles. 😀

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

        & sub

  5. Luis
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to nitpick but there is a difference between decent and descent.

    • mordacious1
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      It appeared to be a decent descent.

  6. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    On the left can see the pilot’s hand on the “steering wheel” (I’m sure some reader will give me the correct name)

    Yoke.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      Does that make the person whose hand is on the yoke a yokel? 😉

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        Punsters are yolkers?

  7. Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    “hand on the “steering wheel” (I’m sure some reader will give me the correct name)”

    Yoke. The panel is nice, although “steam gauges”. Even most trainers these days are coming with glass cockpits.

  8. Jeff Rankin
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Very cool videos – looked like a smooth landing.

  9. NewEnglandBob
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I used to fly with a buddy in a 2 seater. His landings were more turbulent than that. He would bounce onto the runway (sometimes too hard) and float back up and down again.

    I was wondering about the windshield in the videos? Cracked? Imperfection?

    • Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      I think Jerry was referring to the light chop a couple hundred feet off the ground, likely caused by a bit of wind plus differential updraft rates from the heat coming off the different parts of the terrain — grass, pavement, water, and so on.

      The landing itself was well executed.

      I’d guess the spot in the windshield is the same type of pit as you get from flying gravel (etc.) in a car windshield. It looks different because this windshield is likely made out of polycarbonate (Lexan) instead of glass.

      b&

  10. Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Well, that settles the question of whether it was a 402 or a Caravan!

    Fun fact: save for unusual circumstances, basically all aircraft take about twenty seconds from the start of the takeoff run until they’re airborne. Holds true in this example, too.

    Glad you enjoyed the flight, Jerry!

    Oh — and, something to keep in mind: one way to think of it is certainly that you were sitting in the copilot’s seat, but far more common these days in aircraft like this is that you were sitting in the flight instructor’s seat. Also, many commercial pilots are themselves flight instructors, as it’s one way for younger pilots to themselves build experience and time in the air. Next time, you might hint that you wouldn’t mind a lesson, and the pilot may well be happy to explain everything he or she is doing, tell you how to read the instruments and find where you are on the map, and so on.

    Don’t be pushy, of course, but don’t be shy, either. For many pilots, these kinds of jobs can eventually get to be as boringly tedious as driving a bus the same route every day, and having an interested passenger / student can be as interesting and fun for them as it is for you.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Bob J.
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      “basically all aircraft take about twenty seconds from the start of the takeoff run until they’re airborne. Holds true in this example, too.”

      Not from an airstrip at 6,463 ft (Bridgeport California) on a hot summer afternoon.

      • Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

        I did remember to include a caveat about “unusual circumstances,” did I not, in the original? Ah, yes — good. just checking.

        (And Navy jets launched with a catapult from an aircraft carrier take substantially less than twenty seconds to get airborne.)

        b&

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      I was going to make similar mutterings, with an additional datum that a year or two ago an absolute novice managed a good (standard meaning – walk away) landing in Humberside UK with a dead (unresponsive) pilot and talk – down from the tower.
      Therefore, a non-contact interest in how things work is not a wasted mental investment. It could save your life, and a half dozen others. Which is pretty good pay back.
      I doubt that I could fly a plane tomorrow. But to turn a crash into a walk – away is worth trying. It beats screaming,at least.

      • Posted November 14, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        With two big caveats, anybody who can talk to the tower without panicking should be able to make a good (standard meaning) landing.

        The first caveat, of course, is that the aircraft is still airworthy. If there’s anything significantly degrading its performance, you’re probably dead.

        The second caveat, at least in light aircraft, is that you’ve got to be able to see the horizon. I think it’s the Canadian equivalent of the American FAA that has a statistic of something like 27 seconds, which is the average life expectancy of a licensed pilot who flies into “IMC” — Instrument Meteorological Conditions — who is not certified to do so. It takes an entirely counter-intuitive and difficult-to-learn set of skills to be able to read the instruments to be able to keep the plane straight and level (let alone maneuver it) without being able to see the ground even in calm weather…and, of course, the inside of a cloud is generally turbulent.

        So, if it’s clear skies and the plane’s not broke, get on the radio and do the whole “MAYDAY” thing, and you’ll probably live to tell the tale. Otherwise…well, still get on the radio, but you’re gonna die.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 14, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

          That is, of course, if the plane doesn’t have inherent stability. It’s my impression that some high-wing types will fly indefinitely straight and level hands-off if the ‘pilot’ doesn’t touch something, and may settle back from mild disturbances. I would imagine that would help, if only to give time, maybe, for the novice ‘pilot’ to be guided towards clear air…

          • Posted November 15, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

            The problem is that landing requires not flying straight and level. But, yes, a mild-mannered plane is, of course, going to raise the odds over an aerobatic powerhouse.

            b&

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted November 15, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

              I would think it would help enormously if the ‘novice’ can make cautious adjustments to course and simply let go and have the plane settle back to straight level flight, rather than having to ‘fly’ it the whole time – specially in poor visibility.

          • Woof
            Posted November 21, 2014 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

            Most run-of-the-mill aircraft have inherent positive stability: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longitudinal_static_stability

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 16, 2014 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

          I think it’s the Canadian equivalent of the American FAA that has a statistic of something like 27 seconds, which is the average life expectancy of a licensed pilot who flies into “IMC” — Instrument Meteorological Conditions — who is not certified to do so. It takes an entirely counter-intuitive and difficult-to-learn set of skills to be able to read the instruments to be able to keep the plane straight and level (let alone maneuver it) without being able to see the ground even in calm weather…and, of course, the inside of a cloud is generally turbulent.

          There was a spate – about 25 corpses long – in the second to last half-decade with North Sea helicopter pilots flying perfectly serviceable aircraft into the sea through losing horizon.
          CFIT is a horrible acronym. Controlled Flight Into Terrain.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      20 seconds – that’s slightly less time than it takes a typical mammal to urinate. Coincidence? I think not.

      • Posted November 15, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Depends. Are you suggesting a lot of wet seat bottoms…?

        b&

        • Woof
          Posted November 21, 2014 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

          Depends. Do they use Depends?

  11. alexandra
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    ooooooo – thank you! Taking off especially. It still amazes me and almost stops my heart to think what science has accomplished in such a short time. Small planes are the best!!

  12. Posted November 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Cape Air! Those guys fly all over the place. I flew with them from San Juan to Vieques, Puerto Rico, a few years ago. Since then I’ve learned that they’re based on Cape Cod and fly all over New England and in Missouri, Montana, New York, and even Micronesia.

    • Posted November 15, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      So did I, woctor, though in my case it was a single-engine six-seater, and I was in the absent co-pilot’s seat. My self-appointed job once airborne was to try to communicate to the pilot (in bad Spanish) that the fuel gauge was on empty. Even when I pointed to it he merely shrugged. Got us (one other passenger) over the mountains and safely onto the island, though.

      Love Vieques, by the way.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 15, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        The fuel gauge probably didn’t work. I’ve had cars like that. With any luck he would have dipped the tank before takeoff.

  13. Michael JE Fisher
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    James Fellows – Jerry. He’s a great journalist at The Atlantic & a private pilot. He’s been promoting the *Ballistic Parachute* which in times of trouble floats the whole shebang to ground. I think it’s available on the “Cirrus” line of aircraft – simple idea that works beautifully for v. small ‘planes.

    N160PB had a bit part in a film called Wings…

    There’s normally 4 paired rows of seats rear of the cockpit on the 402C = 10 crew+passengers total. I suppose they used the back pair for high value light cargo [such as medical supplies?] rather than troublesome heavy passengers who cost a lot of fuel.

    Cape Air pay $15/hr for noob 402C pilots rising to $25/hr after many years [never], which is the going rate today. Disgraceful, but flight crew are paid v. poorly now.

    Cape Air have dozens of these Cessna workhorses Caribbean-island hopping.

    • Posted November 14, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      “He’s been promoting the *Ballistic Parachute*”

      Most pilots find the idea ridiculous. There are very few types of problems where popping a parachute is the best option. The aircraft will be destroyed on impact, and, since the landing spot isn’t controllable, you aren’t necessarily going to walk away.

      The parachute, however, has great appeal to the non-pilot passengers.

      • Michael JE Fisher
        Posted November 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Can’t argue with that. Suitably light aircraft could probably glide to ground assuming it’s not an incident involving structural failure or incapacitated pilot. I can imagine it being deployed via pilot error at too high a speed too. Anyway here’s one time when it supposedly did a bit of good:-

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2336815/Pilot-76-walks-away-plane-crash-just-minor-injuries-deploying-emergency-PARACHUTE-allowed-light-aircraft-float-safety-quiet-Cheltenham-garden.html

        • Posted November 14, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          “here’s one time when it supposedly did a bit of good:- .”

          Not enough information in the article to tell. These light airplanes tend to have at least a 10 to 1 glide ratio, so if you have enough altitude, you can usually find a decent place to land, unless the terrain is very hostile. And, as you say, structural failure is a different story. That’s pretty rare, though.

          • Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

            To put that in perspective…well, a 10:1 glide ratio means that, if you’re at a rather low cruising altitude of 5,000 feet above the ground, you’re going to land somewhere in a ten-mile radius. Unless you’re over badlands or mountains, you’re basically guaranteed of having somewhere you can put the plane down within that range.

            An airliner is going to have a similar glide ratio, maybe marginally better. But they’re cruising at seven or eight miles up, and so might even be able to go an hundred miles with no power. There might not be any suitable runways in that range, but there’s guaranteed to be a place to put down that most everybody is going to walk away from the landing site.

            Sailplanes, in contrast, are going to have glide ratios in the 50:1 – 70:1. A sailplane at 5,000 feet may well touch down at the same spot as an airliner that runs out of fuel at cruising altitude.

            And the Space Shuttle? It’s a brick with stubs. 4.5:1 glide ratio. That they could even maneuver that thing to the runway is a damned miracle.

            Cheers,

            b&

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 14, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

          Or you could fly an An-2 –
          “A note from the pilot’s handbook reads: “If the engine quits in instrument conditions or at night, the pilot should pull the control column full aft and keep the wings level. The leading-edge slats will snap out at about 64 km/h (40 mph), and when the airplane slows to a forward speed of about 40 km/h (25 mph), the airplane will sink at about a parachute descent rate until the aircraft hits the ground.”

          The corollary is that it has no official stalling speed. If cutting the power and pulling the stick hard back won’t stall it, I’m not sure what would…

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted November 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

            If you can find me one, I’m sure I’ll be able to stall it. I’m good at breaking things in ways unintended to the designers.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted November 17, 2014 at 12:45 am | Permalink

              The thing I wonder about is this, that if the thing pops out the bottom of the cloud at 25mph forward speed and 20mph sink rate, will shoving the stick hard forward allow it to regain flying speed?

              I would think if it’s balanced properly, and the elevator is reasonably effective (and the CG not too far aft), it should. “Will all passengers please come and join the pilot in the cockpit?”

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted November 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

                Well, we routinely have our rotorcraft pilots rearrange passengers in the cabin to get better trim, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened in fixed wings too.

      • Larry Esser
        Posted November 14, 2014 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        You mean you haven’t heard about pilots and passengers lives being saved by the parachute in Cirrus aircraft? It’s not a gimmick. There was a bad collision about a month ago in Maryland where a small training helicopter hit a Cirrus near an airport. Both men on the Cirrus, which deployed its parachute, lived. All 3 men on the helicopter were killed. As a professional pilot, were I able to afford a personal airplane, you can bet your bottom dollar I’d go for the Cirrus with the parachute right away.

        • Posted November 14, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

          “you mean you haven’t heard about pilots and passengers lives being saved”

          Too generous of an interpretation. I’ve heard of people surviving the parachute, big difference. I’ve also heard of people not surviving the parachute.

          Most (possibly all) of those people who survived the parachute would also have survived an off-airport landing, although a mid-air collision might be one of the few times a parachute would do some good.

          Statistically, though, the Cirrus hasn’t proved to be a particularly safe airplane.

          Even ignoring the parachute, the Cirrus is a nice airplane and I would consider owning one, although I’d rather have increased payload instead of the parachute. I’s also rather have a turbocharged twin. Heck, while I’m fantasizing, make that a turbine twin. 🙂

      • steve oberski
        Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

        A significant part of the flight instruction for my private pilots license (I trained on and flew the Cessna 172P which is the single engine, non retractable landing gear, smaller brother to the 402) involved unpowered (although for some reason the instructor would never actually let you turn the engine off, just reduce power to minimum) emergency landings.

        I don’t know about the 402, but the 172 could glide for miles in the right conditions, basically if you could see your landing strip then the plane could reach it. And in an emergency situation the definition of landing strip became very, very broad.

        The only part of the training that I enjoyed less was having to deliberately stall the plane and recover from the dive.

        • Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

          A lot of students get nervous about stall training, but I think that might have more to do with macho flight instructors with a “sink or swim” attitude. Done right, you can transition smoothly from slow flight to mushing to stall and back and forth. Once you’ve got those skills, the dramatic pull up / dive bit should be a lot less dramatic.

          Plus, a picture-perfect landing is a stall at the moment the wheels touch the numbers. If you know just how to find that edge between flight and stall, you know how to land smoothly.

          b&

          • Bob J.
            Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

            Ya – but that blasted horn just won’t stop.

            • Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

              I’m sure there must be a fuse you can pull….

              b&

          • Geoff
            Posted November 14, 2014 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

            Could you say “think or thwim”?

            • Posted November 14, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

              I think I san! I think I san!

              b&

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 16, 2014 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

          (although for some reason the instructor would never actually let you turn the engine off, just reduce power to minimum) emergency landings.

          Why not turn the engine off? In case it didn’t re-start.
          When I was half-seriously considering getting a pilots license some years ago, I discovered that hours at the stick of a glider contributed to keeping your logbook hours up. I think it was about 2-for-1 (2 hours of glider equated to one hour under power). Why? Because any powered aircraft can turn into a glider by losing it’s engine.
          I applied my “where’s the way out” logic, and decided that I’d learn to land a parachute before learning to fly a glider, then learning how to fly a powered craft, and then learning to fly a paraffin budgie.
          Then, knowing what I’m like, I realised that I’d BASE while doing the parachuting. Still haven’t started to parachute.

  14. madscientist
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Don’t worry – if you have good motor skills and the pilot croaks in flight you can always be ‘talked down’ – well, provided the communications radio was on, tuned to the right channel, and within range of a ground station or other aircraft. I’d guess that the aircraft will quite happily carry all passengers with only 1 engine operational – with 2 engines you have an awful lot of power (makes the aircraft easier to control) and if you have a big runway nearby it’s easy to land without any practice. In comparison jet aircraft have hellishly complex instrument panels and in general the larger the aircraft the more complex the panels – I doubt I’ll ever get news of an untrained person being talked down in a jet. The speed and mass of the jet also makes maneuvering a bit more difficult (takes more time to get used to how the aircraft responds when you change the controls).

    • Bernie
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      Weeel, it might not be true of this one, but often small 2 engine planes don’t have a lot of excess power. Now that Jerry’s safely back, I can quote the common saying that after one engine fails, the other one takes you to the scene of the accident.

      • Posted November 14, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. I don’t know the single-engine performance of the 402, but I wouldn’t be surprised if its single-engine service ceiling is well under 10,000 feet, and I’d be astounded if it could take off on one engine. Worse, you have basically zero safe turning radius with an engine out…if you lose an engine shortly after takeoff, you keep flying straight, because an attempt to turn to return to the airport will result in a stall and crash and burn and death.

        This is in marked contrast to twin-engine jet airliners. The 727 can easily take off with a single engine, and its single-engine rate of climb and airspeed and service ceiling and the rest is going to be significantly better than the 402 can manage with both its engines. But even they still have to be carful about turning with an engine out.

        In general aviation, especially with piston-powered engines, one engine is almost always significantly superior to two in terms of safety. The twins are generally faster and have higher service ceilings and the like…but they’ve also got twice as many engine parts to fail, and a twin with a single failed engine is, in many ways, far more difficult to fly than a single-engine plane with a dead engine.

        There are a great many single-engine planes I’d personally choose for my own (after finding that winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk) long before many twins.

        …I must admit, though, that a DC-3 would be on the short list….

        b&

        • Posted November 14, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

          “you keep flying straight, because an attempt to turn to return to the airport will result in a stall and crash and burn and death. ”

          Ah, this is not true. It’s part of ME training that you practice a return to the airport and it’s part of every ME checkride.

          • Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

            Sadly, the people of FlightSafety have personal experience that such a maneuver is fraught with peril.

            b&

            • Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

              The maneuver is a PTS requirement.

              Yes, it’s fraught with peril, which is why it is trained. The pilot must do everything right in order to be successful at it in a light twin.

              When heavy, or at high density altitude, it may be true that the airplane will descend during a turn at optimal climb speed; in that case, the pilot will need to fly straight until a safe altitude is reached before turning.

              The pilot in the article apparently allowed his airspeed to bleed off and either stalled or lost directional control.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 16, 2014 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

          because an attempt to turn to return to the airport will result in a stall and crash and burn and death.

          And the downside is?

          • Posted November 17, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

            Depends on how many empty seats there were that could instead have held lawyers….

            b&

        • Woof
          Posted November 21, 2014 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

          > Twin-engine 727

          Well there’s your problem right there!

          There’s a story of a 727 flying from DFW to LAX. An hour or so into the flight they “lost” #3. They shut it down per the checklist and continued on their way.

          Only after landing did the flight crew realize that they did indeed LOSE the engine. Turned out it went SPLAT into a New Mexican pig farm.

          (No hogs were harmed in the telling of this story.)

    • Posted November 14, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      ” I’d guess that the aircraft will quite happily carry all passengers with only 1 engine”

      Possibly, but probably not a light twin, such as this one.

      And maintaining directional control with one engine out is likely impossible for an untrained person. It’s hard enough when you’re trained, if you look at the accident data.

  15. Posted November 14, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I have several pilot friends that could probably take me up in a small plane but I am afraid I’d get sick in such a craft given my body’s desire to puke St all confusing signals sent to my brain.

    • Posted November 14, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Take some dramamine. It’s one of the best experiences you could ever have. The first time I went up, my pilot friend invited along a flight instructor, who let me fly the airplane from start to finish. It was the most exhilarating thing I’d ever done. I had to start training immediately.

      • Larry Esser
        Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        That’s what happened to me! The moment the instructor let me fly the airplane myself, that was it…I was hooked. That was more than twenty-five years ago and I’ve been flying ever since.

        • Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

          Are you still hooked? Most airline pilots seemed to get bitter. 🙂 I jumped into flight instruction and never had the desire to move further “up”. I love the teaching and I love taking people up for their first flights. Many of my students are now flying for the airlines, but they all miss their time as flight instructor.

    • Posted November 14, 2014 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      Sadly those meds make me fall asleep. I think I’m meant to be earth bound. Too bad, as I bet I could really handle those g’s.

  16. James Dwyer
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    My 2 cents::
    The aircraft in the photo, N160PB, was most likely a PBA (Provincetown-Boston Airlines)plane. to work for PBA as a pilot and I probably flew that airplane. I left PBA in 1985 to take a job with a major air carrier based in Ft. Worth TX. The plane in the photo is a “C” model Cessna 402and is probably from the late 1970’s . Planes of this type flown with passengers on board must have an autopilot , but even so, there is much for the pilot to do.

    Just to correct a few misconceptions in the comments above: At max take off weight, the C402C will climb nicely on one engine. The service ceiling is above 26000′ so the single engine ceiling is almost certainly well above 10000′. I think that a 402C could easily take off with one engine but would need a very long runway to accelerate. I don’t think a B727, which is a 3 engine plane could take off on one engine. I was a flight engineer in the old 727, and so do have some slight expertise.

    Maintaining control and landing with no training and one or two engines running would be extremely unlikely…virtually impossible in my professional opinion.

    Turning, with an engine failure at the most critical phase of take off (“V2 cut”) is not a problem at all, even turning into the operating engine. It may be tautological, but if you have control of the aircraft, you have control of the aircraft and can make it turn as you wish. The problem with turning is that you lose some lift and you may not have any extra to give up.

    Jerry: Awesome website, Awesome Book(s)
    Keep up the good work

    That might have been 5 cents worth.

    • Posted November 14, 2014 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for those insights from actual data!

      The 402 is obviously beefier than I understood, with more oomph than the light twins I’m more familiar with.

      And I obviously had a typo / thinko…it’s the 737, the workhorse of Southwest Airlines, I had in mind, not the 727 tri-jet.

      I’d also further clarify: turning with an engine out might not be a problem for a skilled and experienced pilot, but it’s certainly killed many lesser pilots, such as the one who just crashed into the FlightSafety building in Kansas. Because, as you note, you’re now radically altering the performance envelope at a point where you may have started on the other edge of the new line of that envelope. I’m sure there’re pilots who could handle with ease a psychotic instructor pulling and restoring engines randomly, but real pilots in real twins too-often die when they try to turn with a dead engine.

      b&

  17. Kevin
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    That was a rather impressive landing.

  18. Jeffery
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    I have a friend who used to be a pilot for American Airlines- he started out as a “flight engineer”, then moved to co-pilot when automated systems did away with that position. Back then, the airlines were all about going more and more to automation, talking about even doing away with co-pilots. The standing joke among the crews was that eventually it would be just one crew member and a dog: the crew member’s job would be to feed the dog, and the dog’s job would be to bite the man if he tried to touch any of the controls!

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      That made me laugh!

    • Posted November 14, 2014 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      Ha ha! The dog would probably be management too.

  19. Posted November 14, 2014 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    “That, of course, means that if the one pilot has a heart attack, we’re in trouble.”

    You’d get to see Ceiling Cat (or Basement D*g) earlier than expected. 🙂

  20. Posted November 15, 2014 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Flying with my oldest bro Bill, doing touch-and-go practice east of Colo Spgs. And, same flight, passing over west Colo Spgs — some nice shots of Garden of the G*ds and its famous “kissing camels” formation.

    It was such a good day for flying, we went right up against the mountains, taking all kinds of ganders at Pikes peak – being sure not to fly over NORAD.

    • Posted November 15, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Fun!

      And the Garden of the Gods looks like nothing so much as an oversized stegosaurs that upped and died and got partially buried….

      b&

  21. bonetired
    Posted November 15, 2014 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    I, once only sadly, flew a light aircraft when my wife gave me a present of a one hour trial flight. It was a battered ( but fully airworthy ) Cessna 150 and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Only problem was that, due to an amputation, I couldn’t use the toe brakes on the ground but once in the air you don’t (at least as part of basic flying) need to use the rudder pedals so I took the controls and flew the plane. Absolutely loved it! (Brits of a certain age will have heard of a double amputee who served with distinction in WW2 – Douglas Bader)

    Right … N160PB

    1981 CESSNA 402C
    Fixed wing multi engine
    (10 seats / 2 engines)

    Owner

    HYANNIS AIR SERVICE INC
    HYANNIS, MA
    (Corporation)

    http://uk.flightaware.com/resources/registration/N160PB

    • bonetired
      Posted November 15, 2014 at 3:13 am | Permalink

      Update:

      The most amusing part of the flight was during the return to the airfield when the instructor asked me to fly around rather than over some rather nondescript hut type buildings to the north of Hereford (UK) with the comment “the SAS don’t really like us flying over their headquarters!”

  22. Bob
    Posted November 15, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. If they can reuse the airplane, it is a great landing.

  23. Posted November 15, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Our family once took a small commuter jet from one resort of a Caribbean island to another. The view was utterly spectacular. Now that’s the way to view a coastline!

  24. cornbread_r2
    Posted November 15, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I’d sometimes hitch a ride home on an ancient, WWII surplus twin-engine Beechcraft that was normally used as a mail/freight plane. The pilot, who appeared to be about 18, would let me ride shotgun — which was not without its hazards as I once had a large Slurpee crushed against my chest when the pilot yanked back on the yoke while landing.


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