Test Pilot

August 1, 1998


  1. A pilot notices during a VFR climb that the airspeed indicator, VSI, and altimeter suddenly and simultaneously become erratic. And then, just as suddenly, they revert to seemingly normal operation. What is the most likely problem?
  2. Why did airmen training during World War II at Midland, Texas, have a higher incidence of "black eyes" than airmen training anywhere else?


  1. From reader John T. Sinnott: The first Black-American woman received her pilot certificate in
    1. 1921.
    2. 1941.
    3. 1961.
    4. 1981.
  2. A 40-gallon fuel tank in the wing of an airplane is filled with fuel having a temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature later climbs to 90 degrees, which causes the fuel to expand and spill overboard though the vent. The amount of spillage is 4/10 of a
    1. cup.
    2. pint.
    3. quart.
    4. gallon.
  3. From reader John H. Price: Speaking of fuel, which of the following contains the most chemical energy per gallon?
    1. Jet A (kerosene)
    2. 100LL (avgas)
    3. Unleaded, regular automobile fuel
    4. Ethanol
  4. What is the world's largest desert?
    1. North American Desert
    2. Kalahari Desert
    3. Sahara Desert
    4. None of the above
  5. From reader Raymond Maguire: A pilot's blood will boil in unpressurized flight at approximately
    1. 55,000 feet.
    2. 62,000 feet.
    3. 69,000 feet.
    4. 76,000 feet.
  6. The absence of a ceiling (or sky condition) and visibility on an automatic terminal information service (ATIS) broadcast indicates that these have been observed to be at least
    1. 3,000 feet and three miles.
    2. 3,000 feet and five miles.
    3. 5,000 feet and five miles.
    4. 5,000 feet and eight miles.
  7. The most powerful piston engine ever built for an aircraft was manufactured by
    1. Lycoming.
    2. Packard.
    3. Pratt-Whitney.
    4. Rolls-Royce.


  1. An old saw cautions not to eat yellow snow, but blankets of yellow snow really do occur in nature.
  2. From reader Mark Bidgood: The Boeing 747 was the first Boeing airliner to incorporate a spiraling staircase in the cabin.
  3. In military aviation, a sortie usually is a combat mission consisting of two aircraft.


  1. Water in the static line. The erratic indications are caused by air bubbling through the trapped water.
  2. The Army's largest bombardier school was in Midland. The sooty, soft-rubber eyepieces of the bombsights left black circles around the eyes of the bombardiers.
  3. (a). Bessie Coleman (a.k.a. Brave Bessie) could not find a school in the United States that would teach her to fly. She found more liberal attitudes in France, learned to fly there, and returned home to become a successful exhibition pilot.
  4. (d). According to Exxon, a 40-gallon tank will lose almost a half-gallon from expansion. The greater the temperature rise, the greater the loss.
  5. (a). In terms of chemical energy, auto fuel is next, 100LL is next to last, and ethanol contains the least chemical energy.
  6. (d). It is Antarctica, where humidity is typically less than that of the Sahara, and annual snowfall in the interior is less than two inches.
  7. (a). Also, given a volume of air taken from sea level to this altitude would expand to 14.7 times its original size.
  8. (c). When reported, ceiling is expressed in feet above ground level (agl), and visibility is expressed in statute miles.
  9. (a). Lycoming's XR-7755 36-cylinder radial engine developed 5,000 horsepower and weighed 6,050 pounds. It was never used on a production airplane.
  10. True. Yellow snow can occur when substantial quantities of pollen are blown into the atmosphere and serve as hygroscopic nuclei around which snowflakes form.
  11. False. The Boeing Clipper (Model 314), a flying boat, had a spiraling staircase, as did the Boeing Stratocruiser (Model 377), which was developed from the military C-97.
  12. False. A sortie involves a single aircraft. Sortie originated from the French verb sortir, which means "to go out."