Trivia Testers: Stuff you probably didn’t know, take three…

VFR in Class A Airspace?
Under what rule in the FARs could you fly VFR in Class A airspace?

  1. There is no such rule. All operations in Class A airspace must be under Instrument Flight Rules, period.
  2. Actually, under FAR 91.159, you can. This rule on VFR cruising altitudes specifically refers to flight above 18,000 feet in section (b), and even flight level 290 in section (c). It spells out which altitudes to use, depending on your magnetic course, using hemispherical rules just as we do below FL 180.
  3. True, but another harmless oversight. More realistically you could do this under FAR 91.3, the familiar ‘authority of the pilot in command’ rule that says you can break any other rule in the book, in an emergency. Say you were cruising along IMC in your T210 at 17,000 feet, with reported tops at FL 190, and you had a total electrical failure. (Don’t look to 91.155 for flight visibility and cloud clearance minimums in Class A, though.)
  4. Section 91.135 on operations in Class A airspace, paragraph (d) states that you can deviate from any provision of that section with an ATC authorization, although such a request must be submitted in writing at least 4 days before the proposed operation. They may authorize it on a continuing basis, or just for one individual flight.

Technically it’s (2), realistically it’s (1), and in reality the answer that really ‘counts’ is (3). The only law you’re NOT allowed to break in an emergency is gravity. The exemptions to 91.135 mentioned in (4) have to do only with clearances, communication, and transponder operation, not flying VFR.

Editor’s note: It’s always a good time to brush up on your FARs — or check Jeff on his… Hint: when you get there, use a ‘find’ in your browser to take you to the appropriate one (e.g. 91.135.)

Learning … The Hard Way
For fighter aircraft during WWII, what aspects of tracer rounds may have caused difficulty for aircrews?

  1. Tracers were placed in every fifth round to aid in aiming. However, they had different ballistics, so at long range if your tracers were hitting the target, 80% of your rounds were missing.
  2. Tracers instantly told your enemy that he was under fire, and from which direction.
  3. The practice of loading a string of tracers at the end of the ammo belt told you that you were out of ammo. Unfortunately, it didn’t take enemy aircraft crews long to figure this out for themselves.
  4. All of the above

The answer is (4). Units that stopped using tracers saw their success rate nearly double and their loss rate go down.

History’s Worst Aircraft
Which aircraft would likely ‘take the cake’ for having been the unforgivably worst machine ever to take to the skies (or try doing so)?

  1. Completed in July 1903 and the brainchild of Samuel Pierpont Langley, world-renowned scientist and Secretary of the Smithsonian, the Langley Aerodrome was launched by catapult from a houseboat on the Potomac River in Washington DC. On two separate occasions, in October and again in December 1903 (nine days before the Wright Brothers flew), the Aerodrome roared off the catapult, and then dropped unceremoniously straight down into the river like a ton of bricks.
  2. Back in the days when we still weren’t sure what airplanes were supposed to look like, Horatio Phillips designed a series of genteel Victorian steam-powered ‘multiplane’ craft with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of stacked ‘venetian blind’ wings, and which used an elliptical racetrack as a runway. More often than not, they collapsed in a madly flapping heap.
  3. Somewhat apropos for the holiday season, a dapper gentleman from North Carolina named William Christmas, who was a redefinition of the word charlatan. Mr. Christmas managed to convince several wealthy — albeit gullible — people (and some simply desperate people) during the depths of World War One that first, he had credentials (which he didn’t), and second, that his creation which he called ‘the Christmas Bullet‘, could fly. Made of steel and plywood, they had an unbraced hardwood ‘high wing’ design, and two test flights, both of which killed the test pilots. They actually did fly, but moments after becoming airborne the wings would twist, flap, and then peel away from the heavy fuselage, which then plunged earthward. ‘Doctor’ Christmas died quietly in 1960 at age 94. If I knew where his grave was, I’d go spit on it
  4. Even worse, the Japanese MXY7 ‘Ohka’ (cherry blossom) was a rocket-propelled hand-flown Kamikaze torpedo loaded with high explosives, which was used in WWII. Most unforgivably of all, it was of course designed to kill its pilot. (Of course, so were all the other aircraft pressed into this divine calling.)

This is a toughie. Depending upon which YOU think is worse — being soullessly duplicitous or calamitously misguided, either (3) or (4) would count as being correct. My money’s on (3).