Test Pilot

December 1, 2006


  1. What is the difference between a turboprop engine and a turboshaft engine?
  2. From reader Patrick Doyle: What is the maximum altitude over the 48 states at which a fixed-wing aircraft may fly without a transponder?
  3. When air traffic control advises pilots of other traffic, many pilots advise the controller that the traffic is not in sight using the colloquial and unofficial phrase "no joy." From where does this expression originate?
  4. The Waco CG-4A glider was used during World War II (especially during the Normandy invasion) as a cargo and troop carrier. Why was it referred to as a "flying coffin"?
  5. From reader Erik Townsend: A pilot overhears a controller communicating with an aircraft that has the call sign Flynet. What does this signify?
  6. Almost all general aviation piston engines have a wet sump, a built-in oil reservoir, instead of an external or separate oil tank. How can you determine by looking at the oil dipstick of a wet-sump engine the minimum oil quantity with which the engine can be operated safely?
  7. Which airline offered the first scheduled nonstop service across the United States, what type of aircraft was used, and in what year did this occur?
  8. From reader Richard Somers: Why do some pilots routinely chock their airplanes in their hangars?


  1. From reader John Tiller: A photograph of the Wright brothers is on the back of the plastic pilot certificates issued by the FAA. Orville is on the left and Wilbur is on the right.
  2. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle was the first solo pilot to perform a blind takeoff and landing using only cockpit instruments and radio aids.
  3. Two Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses took off from Hilo, Hawaii, on August 6, 1946, without anyone on board. Both landed safely at Muroc Dry Lake, California.


  1. A pilot approaching an airport hears an automated weather report stating that there is a "thunderstorm in the vicinity" of that airport. This means that the cell is
    1. within 5 nm of the airport.
    2. 5 to 10 nm from the airport.
    3. 10 to 20 nm from the airport.
    4. 10 to 30 nm from the airport.
  2. A pilot has been cleared for takeoff on Runway 21 and instructed to "fly runway heading." The exact magnetic direction of the runway is 205 degrees, and a left crosswind causes 10 degrees of right drift. The pilot should maintain a magnetic heading of
    1. 195 degrees.
    2. 200 degrees.
    3. 205 degrees.
    4. 210 degrees.


  1. They are essentially the same except that instead of driving propellers, turboshaft engines drive a shaft that powers helicopter rotors, ships, electrical generators, compressors, pumps, and so forth.
  2. Gliders, balloons, and airplanes without electrical systems may climb to near the base of Class A airspace (about 18,000 feet msl) without a transponder. This, however, renders the TCAS (traffic alert and collision avoidance system) and similar systems helpless in detecting such traffic.
  3. It is an air-intercept code used by the Department of Defense to mean, "I have been unsuccessful" or "I have no information."
  4. Gliders were constructed primarily of wood and built by 15 different manufacturers. Several of these companies were experienced with wood because they were coffin makers.
  5. Flynet indicates that an aircraft is transporting a Nuclear Emergency Team or Disaster Response Team to a potential or actual nuclear emergency.
  6. It is one-half of the maximum indication etched on the dipstick. If the engine holds 12 quarts, for example, it can be operated with a minimum of six. (Refer to Federal Aviation Regulation 33.39.)
  7. Trans World Airlines (TWA) began operating a Lockheed Super Constellation between Los Angeles and New York on October 20, 1953.
  8. They live in areas most susceptible to earthquakes.
  9. True. Wilbur died in 1912 at the age of 45. Orville died in 1948 at the age of 76. The aircraft shown in the background is the 1902 Wright glider.
  10. False. Doolittle carried an observer (just in case) when he did it on September 24, 1929. First to do it alone was an Army pilot, Capt. Albert Hegenberger, flying a modified Consolidated NY-2 at Dayton on May 9, 1932. Each flew in a hooded cockpit.
  11. True. They were operated remotely by radio. The dry lake was miles long, which
  12. enhanced the probability of a safe landing.
  13. (b) A thunderstorm within 5 nm is reported "at the airport." If 10 to 30 nm from the airport, it will be reported with a quadrant or sector designation. For example, "lightning south."
  14. (c) Pilots are expected to maintain the magnetic heading that corresponds with the magnetic direction of the extended centerline without correcting for drift. (Refer to the pilot/controller glossary in the Aeronautical Information Manual.)
  15. (a) Heavier drops fall faster, about 16 knots, and very light drops almost hover.