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Test Pilot

GENERAL Every year a ball slowly drops over New York's Times Square to mark the beginning of the New Year. How did such a custom originate? From reader Mark Baird: Name a U.S.-manufactured, certified light airplane in which the landing gear may be extended at VNE, the airplane's redline (never-exceed) airspeed.


  1. Every year a ball slowly drops over New York's Times Square to mark the beginning of the New Year. How did such a custom originate?
  2. From reader Mark Baird: Name a U.S.-manufactured, certified light airplane in which the landing gear may be extended at V NE, the airplane's redline (never-exceed) airspeed.
  3. How did radio operators on international flights originally communicate with those who spoke different languages (before English was adopted as the international language of aviation)?
  4. What is the difference between a Cessna 150F and a Cessna F150, and the difference between a Cessna 172F and a Cessna F172?
  5. What was the first type of Allied fighter to shoot down a German aircraft during World War II?
  6. From reader George Shanks: The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress was manufactured with eight jet engines. Explain how the pilots of many B-52s could use two more engines for additional thrust when needed.
  7. Beech manufactured two light twins for the military during World War II, the AT-10 Wichita and the AT-11 Kansan. They were essentially the same as the immortal Model 18 Twin Beech. What was the significant difference between the Wichita and the Kansan?
  8. From reader Mark Barchenko: What is V MU?


  1. The pilot of a typical light airplane takes off at light weight and a forward center of gravity. Stall speed _______ when taking off at a heavier weight and an aft CG.
    1. increases
    2. .decreases
    3. remains the same
    4. cannot be determined
  2. From reader Nelson Hochberg: What happens to the groundspeed of the very bottom of a tire of a landing airplane?
    1. It rapidly speeds up at touchdown and then gradually slows until the airplane comes to a stop.
    2. It rapidly slows at touchdown and then stays the same.
    3. It stays the same at touchdown and then gradually slows until the airplane stops.
    4. It changes according to the groundspeed of the airplane.
  3. From reader John Tiller: Which of the following events are pilots required to report?
    1. A near-midair collision (NMAC).
    2. A bird strike.
    3. Sighting an unidentified flying object (UFO).
    4. None of the above.


  1. Teledyne Continental Motors (nee Continental Motors) has been making aircraft engines for more than 100 years.
  2. The Aeronautical Information Manual recommends that the international distress symbol, SOS, be used by accident survivors as a visual ground symbol to notify overflying aircraft of an emergency situation. SOS originally stood for "save our ship" or "save our souls."
  3. Pilots personally and periodically change the databases for their IFR-approved, panel-mount GPS navigation units. Before using the GPS, they are required to make an operational check of the new database and record the results in the aircraft's maintenance record.


  1. A time ball has been dropped over the Octagon Room at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, every day at 1300 GMT (1 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time) since 1833 as a way for navigators on the nearby River Thames to reset their chronometers. It was the world's first time signal.
  2. One is the Republic RC-3 Seabee. There might be others.
  3. They used Q codes, shorthand used with Morse code. QNH, for example, meant, "What is your altimeter setting?" The answer was something like, "QNH 2997." QFU meant, "What is the number of the runway in use?" QBF meant, "Are you flying in cloud?" and so forth.
  4. Cessna model numbers that begin with an F were manufactured in France by Reims Aviation S.A., of which Cessna owned 49 percent.
  5. A Grumman Wildcat (similar to a Hellcat but with less power) was used by the British beginning in August 1940 and called a Martlet Mk.I. Two of them shot down a Junkers Ju.88 (a twin-engine dive bomber) over the Orkney Islands on Christmas Day 1940.
  6. When the B-52 was armed with two-wing-mounted, air-to-ground AGM-28 Hound Dogs (lifted from an Elvis Presley hit song), the engines of these cruise missiles could be used to supplement aircraft thrust. The missile's fuel supply was replenished with fuel from the B-52. At idle, thrust from the missile's engine overcame its own drag.
  7. The Kansan had the familiar H-tail (two small vertical fins), but the Wichita had a single large vertical fin.
  8. It is the minimum unstick speed, the minimum indicated airspeed at which a fully rotated airplane becomes airborne (unstuck). This is determined during certification and is much slower than the normal liftoff speed.
  9. (d) Everything else being equal, stall speed increases with an increase in gross weight but decreases as the CG moves aft.
  10. (b) The very bottom of the tire rapidly decelerates to zero groundspeed and stays that way as long as the tire is in contact with the ground (assuming no skidding). The groundspeed of the very top of the tire is twice that of the airplane, until it stops.
  11. (d) Pilots are encouraged but not required to report NMACs and bird strikes. Reporting a UFO is entirely optional.
  12. True. Continental Motors (then in Muskegon, Michigan) introduced its first engine in 1905 and developed its Type 0 45-horsepower aircraft engine in 1906.
  13. False. These letters were selected because they combine to make an unmistakable sound pattern in Morse code (dit dit dit, dah dah dah, dit dit dit).
  14. True. Changing the database is considered preventive maintenance. Refer to 14 CFR Part 43, Appendix A.

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