Shades of Captain Sulley

By Robert Mark on April 19th, 2009

The world watched in awe a few months back as Capt. Sullenberger put a US Airways A320 just where he wanted it – well so to speak – on the Hudson River, close by to a half dozen small boats that allowed for the quick rescue of all aboard. For those of you who might not be aware of the physics part of flying, energy management on an aircraft with no power is a Herculean task. On a large aircraft, the task is even more critical, although much of the thought process is the same.

Shuttle My Twitter pal @jenniferwhitely posted this link to the cockpit video of the shuttle Atlantis returning from space to a dandy touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center. Take a gander. It only runs a few minutes and it offers a view of the returning world from the pilot’s perspective through the device called a Heads Up Display that gives an aviator all the information they need in one place as they continue to peer out the front window searching for the runway.

Pay close attention to the numbers flying past on the right side of the screen. That’s the altitude you’re seeing. The video picks up at about “84.” That means 84,000 feet. The airspeed is along the tab on the left. Although they’re only indicating about 280 knots, the True Air Speed (TAS) is about Mach 2.0 at points, roughly 1400 mph.

Watch the last 20 seconds or so of the approach too.

It is virtually impossible to tell the different between this shuttle instructor giving the pilot a few guidance tips and one of us riff-raf instructors coaching a student down an ILS in a Cessna 172. Listen in on how important the wind picking up turns out to be for this glider, especially as the aircraft crosses the end of the runway at 300 knots.


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3 Responses to “Shades of Captain Sulley”

  1. LRod Says:

    Arrrggh. “Heads up” is what you holler to someone who is about to get hit from above. The device project flight information on the screen is a “head up display”, as in having the ability to aviate with one’s head up instead of down in the cockpit.

    My #1 aviation pet peeve. Even the NASA announcers say it and they, of all people, should know better.

    ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired

  2. SEQU Says:

    I think its at Edwards!!! Little too much desert before the runway…

    Love the video though, thanks for posting it!



  3. LRod Says:

    Yeah, definitely not XMR (Cape Canaveral Skid Strip). I love it when they approach from the north as we get a pair of sonic booms about three or four minutes before touchdown.

    Cool video, though. Better than the brief shots given on the NASA channel in their arrival coverage.

    ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired

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