Recently I received a release from Sporty’s Pilot Shop about its new CD or downloadable training course, Virtual Tips & Tricks for the Manual E6B. Not a week or so later I read that Sporty’s will soon have its iPhone E-6B app ready for download, joining the large number of such apps already on the market.
What surprised me was not the app, but the Whiz Wheel program. Do student pilots still learn to use this amazing device, which was created just before World War II and never needs batteries? And do they continue to use it once they finish training? Does the mechanical slide-rule computer have a place in the futuristic world of computerized avionics giving all the fuel consumption and time-speed-and-distance answers as standard readouts?
Obviously, there must be enough demand for old-school methods for Sporty’s to create the new product. But I wonder, do pilots exercise some of its more esoteric capabilities? A reassuring visit to the National Intercollegiate Flying Association revealed that there is one group of pilots that still spin the E-6B to its limits, the students who compete in Computer Accuracy. Think you’re up to their challenge? Click the button to read the rest of this post.
At regional and national Safety and Flight Evaluation Conferences, aka Safecon, Computer Accuracy competitors run the gamut of conversions and multi-part computations in a multiple-guess exam. Here’s an example from the 2009 National Safecon (if you’re up for a whiz wheel challenge, you can find the collection of tests and answers here):
While preparing to take a load of cargo to a remote back-country airstrip in the desert, you observe two steel 55-gallon drums. The freight forwarder has told you that one is completely filled with oil and that one is completely filled with AVGAS, but he can’t remember which one is which. The following questions are based on this situation:
Your destination has ordered fuel only. In an attempt to determine which drum should go, you decide to use a scale. The first drum that you try weighs 355 pounds, so you decide:
a. that your manual flight computer has dead batteries
b. to take the first drum that you weighed, since you are believe that it is fuel
c. that the first barrel could not possibly be fuel
d. that the scale has an error of 85 pounds
Just now you have noticed that there is a label on the second drum that is so faded that you can barely read it. You can make out that it says “Gross Weight 198 kg.” How much does the empty drum weigh?
a. 25 pounds
b . 50 pounds
c. 75 pounds
d. 100 pounds
5. The floor in your cargo area is only approved for a load of 50 pounds per square foot. If you put the drum on a 25-pound pallet that is 36” square, will you even be able to take a 55-gallon drum of fuel?
a. Yes, and there is a 5% safety margin.
b. Yes, and you have 8 pounds per square foot to spare.
c. No, you cannot take the fuel because the floor load is exceeded
d. No, and the floor load limit is exceeded by 16 pounds per square foot.
Or how about this one:
17. If the OAT gauge reads -4 degrees F and you are at 172 knots indicated while cruising at 5000 feet, what is the true airspeed if you know that your thermometer always reads 6 degrees F warmer than the OAT actually is?
a. 176 knots
b. 178 knots
c. 182 knots
d. 189 knots
My E-6B resides in my desk drawer, and I use it occasionally to work the airplane math in a story. But mostly it’s a reminder of friend, Philip Dalton “Flip” Smith, the nephew of Naval Reserve aviator Lt. Philip Dalton who invented the E-6B in the late 1930s. So where is your E6B, and do you remember how to use it? – Scott Spangler