Test Pilot

July 1, 2007


  1. From reader Mike Piccola: What two aircraft were involved in the last dogfight in Europe as World War II came to an end in that theater?
  2. Pilots use METARs, aviation routine weather reports, to determine weather conditions at airports worldwide. What is the origin of the word metar?
  3. From reader David Hutchins: What is the difference between ASOS (automated surface observation system) and AWOS (automated weather observation system)?
  4. From reader Paul Reinman: A bombardier is a crewmember on a bomber. Why is the manufacturer of the Learjet and other aircraft called Bombardier Aerospace?
  5. From reader Arnold Cohen: Which U.S. Air Force airplane routinely used aviation fuel (avgas) instead of jet fuel to operate its turbine engines?
  6. From reader George Shanks: During the Cold War, how did Quail missiles confuse Soviet radar?
  7. Charles Lanier Lawrance designed and perfected one of the most important developments in aviation history. What did he invent?
  8. From reader Mark Barchenko: What is the world's smallest twin-engine airplane?


  1. From reader Dick Siano: When communicating with air traffic control during flight, pilots of the gargantuan Airbus A380 currently are required to append their flight identification with the suffix
    1. Experimental.
    2. Heavy.
    3. Special.
    4. Super.
  2. From reader Tony Bill: Anyone who enjoys soaking in a hot whirlpool bath has heard of the Jacuzzi brothers (there were seven who emigrated from Italy). Long before they indulged in hydrodynamics, they distinguished themselves in aerodynamics by building
    1. an airplane.
    2. hang gliders.
    3. a hot air balloon.
    4. a wind tunnel.
  3. From reader John Schmidt: Airshow performer Sean D. Tucker's biplane, the Oracle Challenger II Dream Maker, has _____ ailerons.
    1. two
    2. four
    3. six
    4. eight


  1. From reader Charles Marston: Although a steam-powered airplane would be relatively quiet (no exhaust noise), be free of destructive vibration, and have low fuel costs, such an airplane has never flown because steam engines and the water needed to make steam weigh too much.
  2. From reader Joe DuPont: Hydrogen may be a useful fuel with which to power rockets, but it has yet to be used to power an airplane.
  3. On July 3, 2002, globetrotter and adventurer Steve Fossett became the first person to fly nonstop around the world in a balloon.


  1. The American pilot of an unarmed Piper L-4 Grasshopper named Miss Me and his observer dove at a German Fieseler Storch and downed the aircraft using their .45-caliber pistols and a .30-caliber M-1 rifle in April 1945.
  2. Metar is derived from the French, message d'observation météorologique régulière pour l'aviation.
  3. ASOS reports more weather elements than does AWOS. ASOS, for example, reports precipitation and remarks and AWOS does not.
  4. The company began life in 1942 as L'Auto-Neige Bombardier Limitée, which made tracked snowmobiles and was founded by Joseph-Armand Bombardier. (In this case, bombardier is French for bomber.)
  5. The Convair B-36 Peacemaker was powered by six reciprocating engines and four jet engines. Avgas was used for all 10 engines to obviate the need for separate fuel systems.
  6. Quails were decoys. Once lowered from bomb bays, their engines would air start and their wings would unfold. They were then released to fly on their own and confuse Soviet radar by giving the same radar and infrared signatures as the aircraft from which they were released.
  7. Lawrance invented the radial aircooled engine. His 200-horsepower, nine-cylinder Wright Whirlwind powered the Spirit of St. Louis from New York to Paris. He was awarded the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 1927.
  8. The single-place homebuilt Cri-cri (French for cricket) has two 8-horsepower chain-saw engines, a wingspan of 16.1 feet, a length of 12.8 feet, and an empty weight of 139 pounds. It cruises at 100 knots.
  9. (d) The A380 generates wake vortices that are more substantial than those of other aircraft in the Heavy category and must be kept farther away from other aircraft.
  10. (a) Their first products were wooden propellers built under contract for the military during World War I. In 1921 they built the first fully enclosed monoplane ever flown in America.
  11. (d) Tucker's airplane weighs just over 1,200 pounds yet has more than 400 horsepower. With it, he can roll at 500 degrees per second or fly backward (straight down and tail first) at more than 100 mph.
  12. False. George and William Besler equipped a Travel Air 2000 with a 90-horsepower, two-cylinder reciprocating steam engine and flew it on April 12, 1933.
  13. False. The first airplane fueled by liquid hydrogen was a Martin-built B-57 Canberra in 1956. Hydrogen also fueled a three-engine Tupolev Tu-154 jetliner in the Soviet Union in 1988.
  14. False. Fossett was first to do it solo. Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones completed their circumnavigation in a balloon three years earlier on March 21, 1999.

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