Test Pilot

May 1, 2008


  1. From reader Mike Piccola: What did Lieutenant Petr Nikolaevich Nesterov of the Imperial Russian Army do to assure himself a place in aviation history?
  2. What is a Cessna Titan?
  3. From reader George Shanks: What was the first type of civilian airplane to be equipped with an autothrottle system?
  4. What was the first manmade object to reach the surface of the moon?
  5. A number of Ernest K. Gann’s books were made into motion pictures, the most notable being The High and the Mighty and Fate is the Hunter. Why did he detest the second of these?
  6. From reader Chet Steele: What airport had the first hard-surface runway(s) in the United States?
  7. What is the world’s largest helicopter?
  8. From reader Jim Huff: What vortac is known colloquially by locals as the “Broken Bra Vortac”?


  1. So you want to buy an Airbus A380, eh? The list price is approximately
    1. $230 million.
    2. $260 million.
    3. $290 million.
    4. $320 million.
  2. During his 1927 flight from New York to Paris in the Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh relieved himself using
    1. canteens.
    2. a relief tube (that he invented).
    3. paper cups.
    4. tin cans.
  3. A conventional spin can develop to the _____ if the airplane is stalled with the slip-skid ball positioned to the _____.
    1. right, right
    2. right, left
    3. left, right
    4. left, left


  1. From reader John Tiller: Pilots operating in Canada generally are advised not to use the standard 45-degree entry into the traffic pattern of non-towered airports.
  2. An airplane is at rest on a runway that is effectively a very large conveyor belt. The airplane is pointed in one direction and the top of the conveyor belt on which the airplane rests can move in the other. As the pilot applies takeoff power and attempts to move forward, a mischievous gremlin moves the conveyor belt in the other direction. By accelerating the speed of the conveyor belt, the gremlin can keep the airplane fixed in position (relative to the ground) and prevent it from taking off.
  3. From reader John Grasberger: A helicopter pilot operating under a special VFR clearance to depart Class B, C or D airspace during the day or at night is not required to abide by any minimum visibility.


  1. Flying a Nieuport IV monoplane near Kiev on August 27, 1913, Nesterov was the first pilot to perform an inside loop.
  2. The Cessna 404 Titan is a slightly larger, more-powerful evolution of the Cessna 402 cabin-class twin. It can seat up to 10 passengers and has geared, turbocharged, 375-horsepower Teledyne Continental engines.
  3. Safe Flight Instrument Corporation introduced AutoPower in a Douglas DC-3 in 1956. Then as now the system automatically and constantly adjusted throttle position (power) to maintain a specified indicated airspeed.
  4. The Soviet Union launched Luna 2 on September 12, 1959, 10 years before Apollo 11. The spherical, 860-pound scientific package impacted the lunar surface on September 14, 33.5 hours after liftoff.
  5. The movie’s producers bought the movie rights to the book merely to use its title. The film and the book had little in common.
  6. The Ford News, dated July 15, 1924, announced that two concrete runways were under construction at the Ford Airport near Detroit, Michigan. One was 3,400 feet long and the other was 3,600 feet long.
  7. The massive, Soviet-built Mil V-12 featured two side-by-side rotors that together spanned almost 220 feet, more than the wingspan of a classic Boeing 747. It had a maximum liftoff weight of 231,485 pounds.
  8. The Tidioute Vortac in Pennsylvania.
  9. (d) If you were to buy three of them, you would receive only $40 million in change from a billion-dollar bill. Chump change.
  10. (c) He poured the contents out of a window.
  11. (b) and (c) Airplanes initiate spinning in a direction opposite to the direction of the ball.
  12. True. The Canadian AIM advises pilots to approach the runway on the upwind leg (on the opposite side of the runway to the downwind leg), cross the runway at pattern altitude, and enter the downwind leg at midfield.
  13. False. It is impossible for the conveyor belt to hold the airplane stationary. The airplane can move forward with respect to the ground and, therefore, develop airspeed needed for flight. The only way the airplane could be restrained would be in the unlikely event that tire friction (a rearward force) becomes equal to or greater than thrust.
  14. True. He is required, however, to remain clear of clouds (as difficult as it might be to see them).