Crew Dragon Demo 2: A Short Course in 21st Century Spaceflight

By Scott Spangler on June 1st, 2020 | 8 Comments »
nasa d2 launch

NASA

As it did when Alan Shepard kicked off the US Space program with his suborbital flight in 1961, I eagerly anticipated watching the program’s most recent chapter, the resumption of flights launched from American soil. Watching the preparations for the Demo 2 departure of Crew Dragon on Wednesday and on Saturday was much more than I expected, a short course in 21st century spaceflight.

Used to the military-toned phraseology employed during all of the NASA launches I’ve watched since Shepard went flying in 1961, it was clear this was a commercial operation because everyone on the NASA TV Launch America referred to everyone involved by their first names. Watching the launch on Saturday with my sister and brother-in-law, we considered (briefly) starting a drinking game where we had to take a sip every time someone said “Bob and Doug,” referring to the Crew Dragon crew of Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Thankfully we didn’t. If we had, the four of us would have been sleeping it off under the TV long before Bob and Doug closed their helmet visors and armed the launch escape system so they could start filling the Falcon 9 with densified LOX and RP1.

nasa crew

NASA

Like the NASA flights that preceded it, acronyms and multi-letter abbreviations liberally seasoned the comments and conversations of launch communications. What I did not expect, based on this past experience, is that the Launch America crew would translate and explain—in English—what they were talking about, hence the much appreciated short course in 21st century space flight.

Chances are you were, like me, one of the more than 10 million online viewers, so I won’t bore you with a geek-worthy catalog of new learning. But as a sample, the super turbo pumps feed the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin engines a mixture of densified liquid oxygen, which is colder than traditional LOX to provide more oxidizer in the same volume, and Rocket Propellant 1, which is a rocket-grade kerosene. To “complete the fire triangle,” the Falcon 9 adds TEA-TEB—a mixture of triethylaluminum and triethylborarne—a pyrophoritic compound that spontaneously combusts when exposed to oxygen (gaseous or liquid or densified liquid).

nasa crew open

NASA

What they did not explain is why the crew kept their helmet visors open until arming the launch escape system. I remember from spaceflights previous when the crew had to prebreathe oxygen to purge their system of nitrogen before launch, to prevent any chance of bubbles of that gas in their bloodstreams should the spacecraft lose pressurization on its way to orbit. (Anyone have any ideas?) The boldly numbered members of the ground crew, on the other hand, seem an efficiently brilliant way to assigning and keeping track of their essential duties, responsibilities, and contribution to the flight.

If Launch America discussed the roots of the whimsical equipment names, I missed it, so I had to do some post flight research. SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk is a science fiction fan (like that was a surprise), so he named his reusable rocket after Hans Solo’s Millennium Falcon. Elon explained the capsule’s moniker in a Twitter response to a question about its name. The reusable capsule “was originally called Puff the Magic Dragon, as people said I was high if I thought it would work, so I named it after their insult.”

nasa merlin

NASA

Expecting the Falcon’s Merlin engines to be named after King Arthur’s wizard, I discovered it was named after the bird, as were SpaceX’s other engines, Kestrel and Raptor. The drone ships that are the landing pads for the Falcon’s first stage were a bit more esoteric. Of Course I Still Love You and Just Read the Instructions are the sentient space ships in Ian M. Banks’s science fiction novel, The Player of the Games.

Taking notes during this enthralling short course was beyond difficult because I could not avert my eyes from the stunning HD video from almost every conceivable angle. Given technology today, I should not have been surprised, but my visual memory was stuck in the shuttle era. But some commercial aspects remain unchanged. On Saturday we turned into the Discovery Channel, and we greatly enjoyed the program that recounted the history of SpaceX and all of its successes and failures. But when the announcer announced the celebrities, including Katy Perry, who would be part of the launch coverage, we switched back to NASA TV and Launch America.

wiki land

Wikipedia

On Launch America the countdown conversation held us rapt, until one of the astronauts uttered a trite cliché, “Let’s light this candle.” Really? The Mylar Puff the Magic Dragon that floated up beside of the seats, described as the zero-g indicator, helped make up for the cliché, and trying to keep up with the speed and altitude readouts, in meters per second and kilometers, quickly buried the B-movie quote in 21st century appreciation and amazement. –Scott Spangler, Editor

ADS-B Turbulence Reports: How Do They Work?

By Scott Spangler on May 18th, 2020 | 7 Comments »
turbulence wx.gov

Weather.gov

The FAA recently posted a fascinating story on Medium, Taking the Turbulence Out of Flight that said ADS-B turbulence reports offer the possibility of more accurate reports on the bumps in the sky. What the story never fully explained is how the ADS-B system would generate the reports.

Like driving on a bumpy road, turbulence is what happens when atmospheric forces result in rapid changes in the vehicle’s horizontal and vertical planes. Its intensity depends on the size of the bump or pothole in the sky. And until this article, reporting such turbulence was a subjective evaluation made by the individual filing a pilot report.

Given a baseline understanding of the system, it is easy to intuit without explanation how the ADS-B turbulence position reports used its GPS WAAS engine. And its extended squitter bandwidth certainly had room for turbulence reports, but it never said how ADS-B would know it was in turbulence.

An FAA ADS-B FAQ page offered clues. ADS-B reports barometric pressure altitude as well as the airplane’s GPS-computed geometric altitude, “the height of the aircraft above the earth ellipsoid.” The two altitudes are not the same, the FAQ explained, “but having both allows for applications that require one or the other as an altitude source and provides a means of verifying correct pressure altitude reporting from the aircraft.”

faa wake turblence

FAA.gov

The next paragraph provides another assumed part of the ADS-B turbulence report puzzle. “ADS-B does not report vertical or horizontal airspeed. Instead, ADS-B reports horizontal and vertical velocity relative to the earth. This velocity is useful for air traffic control functions and ADS-B applications. Airspeed can be provided by other aircraft sensors.” (And speaking of sensors, how will ADS-B separate atmospheric turbulence from the roiling vortices created by other aircraft?)

Might ADS-B turbulence reports be one of the system’s new applications? It seems that the necessary ingredients—position, altitude, and horizontal and vertical velocities—are available for a turbulence-sensing algorithm. But for the reports to have any value, the system must be communicating constantly with a ground station. With an update interval of once a second, that could be considered constant, even with uncompensated latency.

But this is merely an exercise in supposition, a guess of how ADS-B turbulence reports might work. If this guess is anywhere near to close, the best part of it, besides more granular turbulence reports, which any pilot would appreciate, is that that capability might become part of the ADS-B system with a software update, and not the installation of another piece of hardware.

intensity wx.gov

Weather.gov

Another benefit to pilots would be buried in the ADS-B turbulence report algorithm. It would consistently define different aircraft-appropriate levels or categories of turbulence with standardized variations or changes in altitudes and horizontal and vertical velocities. So before making a Pirep, pilot would not have to recall the Turbulence Reporting Criteria Table in the Aeronautical Information Manual. –Scott Spangler, Editor

A Few Thoughts on Chicago’s Hometown Airline

By Robert Mark on May 14th, 2020 | 4 Comments »

Like one of Chicago’s other major aerospace companies, Boeing, the town’s hometown airline has had more than its own share of problems, in addition to those gnawing customer service problems that plague the airline.

Certainly, many of the issues – like COVID-19 – facing United right now were not of the airline’s own making, but how the airline reacted certainly were.

I had a chance earlier this week to chat with Jenn White, from WBEZ’s midday Reset Show (@WBEZreset) about a host of issues related to United including how the COVID-19 virus chaos has and will affect United Airlines.WBEZ is Chicago’s NPR outlet.

Click below to listen to the show.

My apologies for the lousy audio quality on my side but they caught me on my cell.

With No AirVenture, What’s Next?

By Scott Spangler on May 4th, 2020 | 2 Comments »
AV1-11

S.M. Spangler

Humans hate uncertainty, so after reading EAA’s early morning email on May 1 that confirmed what many expected, uncounted thousands of aviation-oriented minds posed, in one form or another, an unsettling question, “With no AirVenture, what’s next?”

The honest answer is that there is no certain answer. The future is an ethereal miasma of possibilities good and bad. Only time will tell. In all probability, there will be another AirVenture, but only time—and our mitigation and vaccination of and against the virus will determine when that will be.

For many humans, bred to hair-trigger impatience by a consumer society dedicated to immediate gratification of our immediate wants (assuming, naturally, that we can afford them), this reality will insufficiently fill the vacuum left by no AirVenture in 2020. Pointing fingers at our political foes and blaming them and their allies for one’s individual inconveniences seems an unproductive pastime in a number of online conversations.

AV09-15

S.M. Spangler

When analyzed from any pragmatic perspective, EAA made the right decision, they made it for the right reasons, and they made it at the right time. And EAA reinforced the reality that the faithful who have made their annual pilgrimages to Oshkosh are, indeed, family. While it is easy for some to sacrifice strangers to the virus to ensure their economic and emotional survival, that willingness to sacrifice others is harder when those individuals are family.

For those pointing fingers, shoveling blame, and crying for sympathy because no AirVenture has inconvenienced them, they will readily find sympathy in the dictionary. Empathy might be a better emotional response. Consider this: For many aviation publications, especially those that monthly feed the needs of those who fly for fun, AirVenture is where they harvest many of the stories that fill the pages we so eagerly turn throughout the year.

Prudent publications always have a number of stories, ready to go, in the bank because, obviously, stuff happens. But that reservoir won’t last long, let alone a year or more. In finding ways to work with travel restrictions and social distancing, let alone the economic consequences facing all involved, their lives will be truly interesting.

The only living entity that truly has a right to be unhappy with no AirVenture this year is the coronavirus itself. Self-isolation and social distancing have made it harder for the virus to find and infect new hosts. If it was a sentient being, the virus was surely looking forward to what would have been a feeding frenzy every morning and evening at the communal bathhouses that serve the multitudes of aviation pilgrims living in Camp Scholler and the North & South 40s. –Scott Spangler, Editor

Aviation’s Covid Consequences

By Scott Spangler on April 20th, 2020 | 5 Comments »

Concentrating on a short-term goal is natural when facing unpleasant restrictions, but these inconveniences pale in comparison to the long-term consequences. What unites both timeframes is the inescapable reality that as individuals, societies, and industries, we are intimately responsible for the consequences of our decisions. With a clear blue sky to stare into, it is a perfect day to ponder aviation’s Covid consequences.

Pilot Shortage to Surplus

Grounded_Airplanes_12-800x533Before the coronavirus disrupted our lives, professional pilots were in short supply. Then the airlines parked most of their fleets, and those still flying were bereft of passengers. Many may hope that travel will rebound one day, but that seems unlikely given the growing number of Americans out of work (22 million and counting) and the trickle down delusions that have, since the 1980s, put shareholders and the executives who cater to them (and themselves) ahead of employees and customers.

Everyday employees are corporate fodder sacrificed as needed to maintain a corporation’s bottom line, so don’t expect those millions to return immediately to work. It took almost 10 years for them to find work after the great recession, and the economy will start its Covid recovery from a deeper hole.

The airlines will probably dig it deeper. The government just gave the airlines a $25 billion bailout, with each of them negotiating its specific requirements and limitations with the administration. To get the bailout, airlines may not fire or furlough employees until September 2020, so we can expect the pilot surplus to exist in October 2020. They cannot buy back more of their stock (which is how they spent a lot of their tax cut windfall) until September 2021 and cannot reward their executives until September 2022.

User Fees

Survey-16Buried in the CARES economic stimulus legislation is an Easter egg that gives airlines what they have been working toward for years, relief from the ticket tax that with, the aviation fuel tax, funds the Airport Improvement Program. Perhaps you saw the media releases from aviation’s alphabet organizations warning that aviation’s infrastructure was in peril because the AIP account was quickly being depleted.

Seeking a degree of fairness, the alphabets urged Congress to provide fuel tax relief for a time. Congress hasn’t yet responded to this request, but if it agrees, it might open the door wide to user fees. The path to this outcome is in the last tax cut legislations. All of the cuts that benefited the haves are permanent, and those that benefit the less fortunate have expiration dates.

Don’t be distracted by the $10 billion infusion from the DOT. Like the $350 billion earmarked for small business relief, that won’t last long at all. America must still fund its aviation infrastructure long term, and as they have in the past, the airlines will lobby for user fees as the “fairest” solution, if Congress provides fuel tax relief. If politicians really cared about treating those who elected them equitably, they would keep the fuel tax and make the multitude of fees the airlines charge subject to the ticket tax.

AirVenture Anticipation?

AV06-SMS-228With the Covid curve still climbing in Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers extended the stay-at-home order until May 26. That greatly reduces the chances that EAA AirVenture Oshkosh will happen this year, for a number of reasons.

The lockdown and social distancing seriously impedes the site work that typically is kicking into high gear about now. And it precludes the arrival of the thousands of volunteers who make the event work. Also affecting the volunteer workforce is their post-Covid employment status—no matter any pilgrim’s passion, food and shelter come first—and their age. The average EAAer is in the demographic most at risk.

Ultimately, miracles happen, but in this case, only time—with testing and a precipitous decline of new infections and hospitalizations—will tell. Given the ineptitude of the national response to the pandemic….

Making smart decisions is the best way to mitigate the Covid consequences, because in this case, death is the only cure for stupid.

The coronavirus is one of Mother Nature’s many faces, none of them sentient beings that pledge allegiance to any political party or ideology. She works on a long-term timeframe, relentlessly taking advantage of every opportunity to propagate. And when something stands in her way, she mutates to avoid the barrier and continues on her way, blowing raspberries at human hubris. –Scott Spangler, Editor

Noise NPRM Proposes New Supersonic Airplane Category

By Scott Spangler on April 6th, 2020 | 3 Comments »

Aerion_AS2_BlueSky_LRAs most of us are coping with the geographic constraints of staying at home, one hopes the FAA did not schedule the release of the NRPM proposing Noise Certification of Supersonic Airplanes [FAA-2020-0316] for March 30, 2020 as an Easter egg or aviation irony. Bu then again, with much of the FAA working from home, which surely gives a greater sense of freedom than when confined in their office cubicles, one never knows.

What is certain, however, is that reading the 65-page NPRM was truly enjoyable because it offered a concise narrative arc on the reawakened interest in civilian supersonic flight. In proposing the noise certification standards, the NPRM proposes a new category of airplanes, Supersonic Level 1.

Add SSL1 to your dictionary of aviation abbreviations and acronyms. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 150,000 pounds and a maximum operating cruise speed of Mach 1.8. And the proposed noise certification requirements apply only to the subsonic landing and takeoff (LTO, another one for your dictionary) cycle standards. This proposal does not change in any way the §91.817, which prohibits the creation of sonic booms over the terrestrial United States.

Irony aside, the NPRM’s timing is important because several companies, such as Aerion Supersonic and Boom Supersonic, are developing supersonic aircraft. And their quest for type certificates cannot proceed without first meeting the supersonic noise requirements, which do not now exist.

Many right now are recalling finger-plugged ears as they watched the Concorde take off for its fly-bys at EAA Oshkosh and asking “Huh?” The NPRM explains that Part 36 still includes noise standards for the Concorde, and the Concorde alone. Even though the Concorde retired from the sky decades ago, its type certificate remains valid.

f-22_2The proposed noise certification regulations are not in any way related to the Concorde standards the FAA issued in 1978. Aviation technology has come a long way since then. Like the military fighters of the era, supersonic flight depended on the fuel-guzzling roar of afterburners. The F-22 introduced the ability to cross the supersonic threshold to supercruise without using afterburner, and that was in the late 1990s. The advancement of airframe and powerplant technology has continued it forward march.

So, what are the proposed SSL1 noise certification standards? The limits are quieter than Stage 4 LTO requirements met by most subsonic jets flying today, but they are a bit louder than the current certification level of Stage 5 for the same aircraft weights. This is an allowance for “the unique technologies and design requirements for supersonic aircraft to maintain long-distance supersonic flight.”

When this all will come to pass is unknown. A safe assumption would be that the NPRM is in the cue for its debut in the Federal Register, and that once published, the public will have 90 days to submit its comments. A speedy conclusion is one thing we can count on. Let’s hope we can once again leave the house before the FAA issues its regulatory decree. – Scott Spangler

Bob Crandall Upfront on Industry Bailouts

By Robert Mark on March 26th, 2020 | 3 Comments »

Bob Crandall retired in 1998 as chairman, president, and CEO of AMR, parent organization to American Airlines and while many people today might not remember his name, they’ll pretty quickly recognize what he created while he was at the helm.

Bob Crandall (L) with another industry giant, the late Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines.

Crandall is the often combative, no-nonsense finance-marketing focused guy who, while at American created American Advantage, the industry’s first frequent flyer program. A strong opponent to deregulation before it took hold in 1978, Bob Crandall is also the brain behind modern-day yield-management that pointed to the path other airlines followed to squeeze every last penny out of an unused airline seat, right up to the moment the tug pushes the airplane back from the gate. He was also created SABRE, the first robust airline industry reservation system.

Crandall became the scourge of unionized airline pilots though in 1983 when he created the notorious B-scale pay system as a tool to fight the flurry of then evolving emerging low-cost airlines. He managed to convince pilots the airline could never afford shiny new aircraft if they didn’t figure out how to cut their labor costs. The move essentially put airline pilots everywhere on a war-time footing with their own management teams and facilitated the 1985 pilot strike at United.

Bob Crandall Today

Because Crandall always been a notorious industry pundit, Bloomberg.com on Tuesday probed him about airline bailouts, as well as Boeing’s push for cash for the aerospace industry in the wake of the economic downturn created by the Coronavirus. Boeing CEO David Calhoun said his company would only accept bailout money on the company’s terms and would not allow the government to take an equity stake in the aerospace giant. With the 737 Max debacle still fresh in people’s minds, some interpreted Calhoun’s mention of a bailout itself as nothing short of heresy. In fact, Boeing board member Nikki Haley resigned last week because she did not believe in offering cash to one industry giant while ignoring others.

Keeping Crandall’s comments in context, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Tuesday said, “Owing to the severity of travel restrictions and the expected global recession, IATA now estimates that industry passenger revenues could plummet $252 billion or 44% below 2019’s figure.”

Despite 20 years away from the airline industry, Crandall’s thoughts on Bloomberg shocked some and surprised others. Early on, he said he didn’t believe the airline industry needed a bailout, but that “it does need support” calling the airlines one of America’s most basic forms of transportation. “You can’t simply let these companies go away,” he said. “But these companies need to understand there needs to be some kind of controls put in place. It probably needs to be regulated like some form of utility.”

Crandall pointed out that, “In the last six years, the industry has spent more than its total free cash flow buying back stock and took on a mountain of new debt. So now we’re saying to the public, we used a lot of our free cash flow to buy back stock, which in a business like the airlines, I would say you should never do. And now we need some support. The airline needs to realize it can’t use its other resources in other ways.” Crandall warned that support might be needed for quite a while since it’s going to take time for people to willingly gather in groups again.

Remembering that Crandall is the dean of yield management, he was also clear about the fact that the airlines can no longer, “continue jamming seats onto an airplane and making the public unhappy. And they can’t spend their free money buying back stock.”

Does he think Boeing needs saving? “We don’t want to lose our leadership position in aviation, therefore we need to help Boeing … whatever it needs to sustain Boeing.” He was less certain about whether the Seattle plane maker might be headed for Chapter 11. “But when we put public support into a company, the public has the right to expect that once you [Boeing] recover, part of the rewards of recovery come to us. These companies need to be ready to give up being completely unrestricted.”

Will people travel less once the virus is under better control? “All the research we’ve ever done says consumers want to travel more. Five years from now, I think travel will be as robust as it is now.” But Crandall admitted the road to that recovery could be pretty rocky, especially in the near term. “Right now, I think we might be underestimating the near term effect of the virus.”

Does that mean returning to a time when the government set routes and pricing? While Bob Crandall thinks nationalization is probably overkill, he believes the government may need to make a substantial investment in the airline industry. He said, “We all need to decide what conditions we want to impose on the airlines until they pay us back.” He was adamant that during this recovery period, “an airline can’t just walk away from a city if that means they lose all airline service.”

With Congress having just passed its initial bailout legislation, we won’t need to wait much longer to see what happens next.

Rob Mark

Pandemic Opportunity for a Safety Stand Down

By Scott Spangler on March 23rd, 2020 | 3 Comments »

When things go chronically wrong in aviation, a safety stand down is an efficient and effective treatment because you stop all operations and dissect what you’ve been doing and how you’ve been doing it to ferret out—and fix—the root causes of what’s been going wrong.

As we socially distance ourselves to temper the spread of Covid 19, conducting an individual safety stand down would be a productive use of our time isolation. We should start with an honest assessment of our cultural, social, and political practices, focusing on their contributions to the medical, social, and economic challenges we now all share. And if they exacerbate the problem rather than remedy it, we should consider changing them.

maslowA safety stand down assessment is straightforward. What is most important to you? Start with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The foundation is the basic needs of food, water, warm, dry shelter, and security. With the pandemic putting many around the world out of work, these essentials are daily questions many are looking to government to answer.

Look at the solutions our elected officials are putting forward. Who do they benefit, and to what degree? What would benefit individuals more, corporate tax cuts, or a robust program of paid leave that would help employers see their employees through the pandemic’s shutdowns?

Some might say another tax cut would enable employers to do that. Perhaps. In our safety stand down assessment, we should look at how well that worked for employees with the trillion-dollar tax cut of several years ago.

160301154509-legroom-comparison-graphic-640x360Being aviation companies, one might expect the airlines to have used aeronautical decision-making, used their government-given tax bounty to make life better for their customers and employees, and prepared for a rainy day by paying down their debt and putting come cash aside for emergencies. Instead, they increased ticket-tax exempt fees, shrank seats, and used most of it to buy back stock that enriched their shareholders and the executive. And now that the rainy day will be around for an unseen period, they are lining up for a bailout. If they get one, we should implore our elected officials to include some conditions that benefit customers and rank and file employees.

Preventing problems from reoccurring is the ultimate goal of a safety stand down. Like the outbreaks of bird flu, N1H1, and Ebola that preceded it, Covid 19 offers another learning experience of preventive procedures. During our safety stand down assessment, we should support those who promise to heed that lesson and support it with focused preparation and funding.

unmotivated-students1And we should be open to related revelations. For example, parents who become home schoolteachers might realize, when they present their children with a structure, academic goal, that maybe they were wrong to blame teachers, and that maybe they have underpaid and under-supported for way too long. Consider this: Depending on how long it takes us to corral the corona virus, many people may not have jobs to go back to, and home schooling may become the new normal.

Given this perspective, as a society, we can only hope that any beneficial change resulting from a safety stand down assessment has an eternal self-like, not one of a New Year’s resolution. – Scott Spangler, Editor

Zulu Time, Full Moon Madness, and Pilot Superstition

By Scott Spangler on March 9th, 2020 | 2 Comments »

Unless you’ve been a disconnected intraterrestial for the past week or so, you’ve probably seen the memes noting the triple one-week whammy of the change to daylight savings time (for those of you living in states subjected to it), a full moon, and a Friday the 13th. They all seem to be implications of bad times: the time change disturbance to our circadian rhythm, the full lunar reflection that seems to nurture humans to make bad decisions, and the stereotypical ill-fortune fate of triskaidekaphobics. It is all nonsense, of course, especially when you look on these events from a pilot’s point of view.

Zulu Time

24 hr clockThe world could put an end to the circadian consequences of time changes and the confusion of calculating time zones when communicating live with someone who lives elsewhere. If English is the universal language of aviation, why not employ aviation’s time zone, set the world’s timepieces to 24-hour Universal Coordinated Time, and then leave it alone. If the world can’t agree that it is, truly, coordinated universal time, changes its designation back to Greenwich Mean Time or, my favorite for its cool word conciseness, Zulu time.

Before time zones, people set their clocks locally, starting at noon, when the sun reached its zenith over their community. Setting a schedule to these village clocks, each set to a different time as Helios made his daily trek from east to west, was more than a bit complicated, so the powers that be created time zones so people would not miss their trains. But compared to the airlines, hardly anyone travels by train any more, and because airliners can cross more than half of the world’s time zones in a single flight, setting their arrivals and departure times to Zulu seems to be working so far.

So why not the rest of the world? And it would give us some new songs to write, Instead of 9 to 5, the arbitrary span of an American workday, in today’s Central Daylight Time it would be 1300 to 0100. It doesn’t seem to have any clear poetic patters, but isn’t our uninterrupted circadian rhythms worth it? And pilots would receive an added benefit of no longer having to look at the local time and try to remember how many hours to add or subtract to fill out the flight plan form with Zulu time.

Full Moon Madness

bomber moonThose in public and medical service will attest to the rise in decisions not thought through when the moon is full. The reason is simple, people can see better while acting under the delusion that their actions are less noticeable at night. That’s why the full moon has been known, since the evolution of load-lifting aircraft, as the bomber’s moon. And it is why the span of the full moon is the best time of the month to maintain a pilot’s night proficiency requirements.

Pilot Superstitions

rudder pedalsMost of the pilots I’ve met and known are not superstitious, unless it comes to missing a step in their preflight preparation and planning, or getting distracted while working through a checklist. Decades ago, one of them warned me about flying an airplane that still had paint on its rudder pedals, but if he explained why, I don’t remember it. Can anyone help me out?

Seeking illumination on the internet, Hartzell Propeller blogged on four superstitions, but half of them, carrying talismans or lucky charms, seem stereotypical of all superstitious individuals. The other two were preflight rituals and weather-related superstitions. They didn’t get into specifics, other than one pilot’s preflight habit of dancing on the wing with an umbrella. I’d be willing to bet the other idiosyncratic behavior is related to something important they missed in preflight or operation.

But maybe I’m missing something here. If you have a pilot superstition, or know of one—and can explain what’s behind it—please let me know, and I’ll share them here. –Scott Spangler, Editor

Researchers Seek IFR-rated Private & Airline Pilots for Study of GA Flying Activity

By Scott Spangler on March 2nd, 2020 | 2 Comments »

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University researchers are asking INSTRUMENT-rated PRIVATE pilots and AIRLINE pilots to complete a 2-5 minute questionnaire (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GK3ZD3B) as to the amount/type of NON-revenue flying in light aircraft undertaken by them. Such information, combined with light aircraft accident data, could lead to improved general aviation safety for either, or both, groups of pilots.