S is for Squawk: A to Z Blogging Challenge 2014

S is for Squawk

A squawk is a signal sent out by a Transponder that lets an Air Traffic Control Center know where you are on radar. You would be seen on radar anyway, but the Transponder actually identifies you by a code attached to the little airplane blip on the radar screen.

You've probably heard a lot lately about how the Transponder had been turned off on Malaysia Airliner Flight 370. When the pilot (or whomever) turned off the Transponder, air traffic controllers lost all contact with them. Flight 370 became one of hundreds of unidentified blips on a radar screen.

When flying I.F.R., as airliners do, that blip allows air traffic controllers to know the altitude at which a plane is flying in addition to its location, which prevents mid-air collisions.

When Mike and I were making an International Flight into Saskatchewan in our RV7, we were required to use our Transponder. We were given a 4-number code that was picked up first by Seattle Air Traffic Control Center, and then Salt Lake Aircraft Control Center, and then Manitoba Air Traffic Control Center, as we successively passed out of each center's jurisdiction. 

In the image below of the instrument panel in our RV7, the Transponder is the instrument right above the radio. The radio is the instrument with the green display that reads 1200. 

What do you think about the mystery of Flight 370? What do you think happened? It's certainly the oddest airline disaster story I've ever heard. 


R is for Rate of Climb: A to Z Blogging Challenge 2014

R is for Rate of Climb

(Image source: Wikipedia)
The Rate of Climb is an aircraft's vertical speed measured in feet per minute. An F-15 like the image at left has the power to climb straight up, like a rocket.  
A Vertical Speed Indicator measures the Rate of Climb. When an aircraft is descending, the Rate of Climb becomes the Rate of Descent, or Sink Rate.  
There are optimum speeds and Rates of Climb. Typical jetliners climb anywhere from 2000-4500 feet per minute. This rate reduces as the plane gets higher. After about 15,000 feet, the air isn't thick enough to maintain that high of performance. When an airplane reaches its performance ceiling, it will use all of its power to maintain that altitude.  
Our little airplane climbs at 1000 feet per minute, generally. It depends on several factors: The initial altitude at which we're starting out, our loaded weight, and outside air temperature and humidity.   

Standard Rate of Descent is 2500 feet per minute in a commercial airliner. I'm not sure what it is in our airplane, but I suspect it's not as fast. Have you ever descended in an airplane and your ears got plugged up and/or even painful? It was probably due to too fast a Rate of Descent.


Q is for Quick Fix: A to Z Blogging Challenge 2014

Q is for Quick Fix

In aviation terminology, a Quick Fix has the same meaning as you might think. It's devising a quick solution to an immediate problem. It's not a permanent solution, but one that will get you by temporarily, or for as long as you need it. Duct tape seems to be the universal, creative quick fix.

When we flew into Canada last summer, we discovered that in Canada, a plane's "N" number needs to be 10" tall instead of 3" tall, as in the U.S. So what was Mike's quick fix? Duct tape.  

It looks awful, but it did the trick. When we got home, he ripped the tape off. It left a sticky residue that cleaned off nicely using AvGas--aviation gasoline.

Have you ever used duct tape as a quick fix? We seem to use it all the time.


P is for Pilot in Command: A to Z Blogging Challenge 2014

P is for Pilot in Command

The PIC, Pilot in Command, is the one who is responsible for flying the airplane. Commercial airliners have PICs, co-pilots, navigators--all keeping track of important functions. Each one has had thousands of hours' worth of flying time before achieving that position. Usually, it is retired military pilots who get these jobs. Plus, commercial airliners are equipped with auto-pilots. You can be assured that you are in responsible hands when flying commercially.

In private aviation, the Pilot in Command is generally the aircraft owner. Or in the case of corporate jets, a pilot with high flying hours and other proper credentials who's been hired by the corporation.

The PIC in the picture below is my husband. We're flying beside Lake Coeur d'Alene after leaving Sandpoint, Idaho. He's talking with another PIC who wants to land at the Sandpoint airport. Mike is telling him that we have left the Sandpoint air space, and that it is clear for him to land.

Do you have a pilot's license? Have you ever wanted to learn to fly?


O is for Outside Air Temperature: A to Z Blogging Challenge 2014

O is for Outside Air Temperature

Commercial airliners are completely climate-controlled and not affected by outside air temperatures. If there's a problem with the heating or air conditioning, the plane is grounded until it's fixed. That happened to us once when we were flying on a commercial airlines, leaving out of O'Hare International in Chicago. Thank goodness the air conditioning problem was resolved before take-off. Even with climate-control, I've still been overheated in a crowded airliner.

Outside air temperature is more of a concern in small, privately owned aircraft, where there is only a thin aluminum wall or an acrylic canopy between the passengers and the outside air. In the summertime, it's not usually a problem, but a boon. The higher you go, the cooler the outside air temperature.

In the winter, though, our airplane heater isn't able to heat the airplane sufficiently when the outside air temperature is 5 degrees, such as it was on the day I took the picture, below. After about an hour of flying, my gloved fingers were numb. I was glad we were heading home.

This picture was taken when we decided to fly over Palouse Falls in December and see it frozen. Click the link to see pictures.

Have you ever been overly heated, or chilled, in an airplane? What did you do?

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