Question: When a controller asks you to ‘maintain runway heading’, what does he REALLY mean?
- It’s an inside joke with controllers. It’s like ‘We’ll do lunch’ in LA. It means ‘drop dead’.
- Very funny. No, he really wants you just to track the extended runway centerline, compensating for any wind drift.
- Close, but no cigar. It means that you should maintain the compass alignment of the departure runway, regardless of where you wind up.
- It is a little known fact, but you should actually follow the precise magnetic heading to which the runway number is an approximation. (For example, taking off from runway 14, the actual heading might be 137.)
The answer is really number 3.
Subject: Wing Buds
Question: Air is thin stuff, but we can still fly in it. Just how small can the wings of a piloted piston airplane be, anyway? (excluding a NASA ‘lifting body’, that is)
- The officially recognized ‘world’s smallest airplane’ is the Bumble Bee, now on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, AZ. (There was also a similar airplane at the EAA museum in Oshkosh, WI.) It was (is) an experimental airplane built by an Arizona pilot. Its wingspan is only six feet, six inches!
- Actually, the smallest airplane WAS the Bumble Bee II, built by the same person, which had a wingspan of FIVE feet, six inches. It was destroyed in a crash in 1988.
- Antonin Przybylowicz (priz-BOL-oh-witz) of Buffalo, NY, flew his jet-powered experimental airplane, named Wingless Wonder, from the Mohave Desert in 1977. It had a takeoff speed of 220 kts, with a stall speed of 205 kts. It had NO wings, and obtained lift from entirely from the fuselage, which had a wing-shaped cross section and a width of three feet, four inches.
- The late actor Michael Dunn flew a custom-build airplane for the 1960’s television show The Wild Wild West, which had a wingspan of eight and one half feet. This was not a dangerously small aircraft, however, considering the sole occupant, Mr. Dunn, was a dwarf. (He was a licensed pilot, and did not use a stunt man. Incidentally, he also had an IQ well over 160.)
The answer is number 2. The builder, Mr. Robert H. Starr, of Phoenix, Arizona, was also the pilot. (He completely recovered from his injuries.) The Bumble Bee II cruised at 150 mph, had a top speed of 190, a stall speed of about 86 mph, and an empty weight of 396 lb. Choices 3 and 4 were alas almost completely fabrication. (Michael Dunn’s IQ was really that high, though.)
Subject: Up, Up, and Away!
Question: Can you launch an untethered balloon (helium, or any other type) without calling the FAA?
- If it is a toy balloon and it and its payload don’t weigh more than four pounds, do your worst. You don’t have to tell anybody. If it’s over the four pound limit, better look at Part 101 of the FARs. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff you’d have to have, as well, such as a radar reflector, auxiliary cut-down mechanism (and associated radio receiver and/or computer control circuit), filing NOTAMs, and keeping the FAA informed of planned flight parameters and progress.
- If it’s over six feet in diameter, you have to file a NOTAM. (A six foot helium balloon will lift almost nine pounds, by the way.)
- There are no rules for balloons under 12 feet in diameter. If you’ve got a helium balloon that big and you’re just fooling around, you have WAY too much free time, and probably more money than brains. (Go find a nice sturdy lawn chair, and have fun.)
- Any balloon, especially metallized reflective mylar types, will play hob with any nearby radar installation. This is as-yet unlegislated territory, but someone will come along beforetoo long and liven up somebody’s afternoon in the tower, don’t you worry.
It’s number 1. The criteria in choice 2 is for tethered balloons. Answers 3 and 4 are bogus.