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Test PilotTest Pilot

1. From reader Ken Dial: True or False? The bar-tailed godwit, a shorebird, migrates from its breeding grounds in Alaska to its winter grounds in New Zealand by flying nonstop and diagonally across the Pacific Ocean, a distance of more than 7,000 miles.

2. An airplane is parked on a ramp at 5,000 feet msl when the ambient temperature is 100 degrees F. The altimeter has been set to the local altimeter setting and indicates 5,000 feet. That evening, the temperature plummets to 50 degrees. Unless reset, the altimeter will indicate

a. 5,200 feet msl.
b. 5,000 feet msl.
c. 4,800 feet msl.
d. 4,600 feet msl.

3. From reader John Schmidt: When a U.S. Army pilot earned his wings during World War II, the center of the wings contained a shield. Some wings contained a star (a command or senior pilot), a “G” (a glider pilot), or an “L” (a liaison pilot). What pilots wore wings containing the shape of a diamond?

4. True or False? A tandem airplane has two seats, one behind the other.

5. In 1943, the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron flew Lancaster bombers at exactly 60 feet over three reservoirs and at night before dropping “bouncing bombs” to destroy three German dams. Altimeters were not sufficiently accurate, and there were no radio altimeters at that time. How did these pilots (the “Dam Busters”) level off and maintain the required 60-foot height?

6. Estimate within 10 knots the highest surface wind ever recorded anywhere (and not associated with a tornado).

7. From reader Jerry Griggs: What biplane was produced in the greatest numbers?

8. Class A airspace begins at Flight Level 180 (approximately 18,000 feet). Flight into that airspace requires that a pilot have an instrument rating, that his airplane be IFR equipped, and that he first receive an appropriate ATC clearance. How may a VFR-only pilot fly at Flight Level 240 without meeting any of these requirements and without special permission?


1. True. According to GPS tracking, this godwit is the champion of long-range flight. Its transpacific journey requires remaining airborne 24 hours per day for 4 to 6 days, without pausing en route for rest or feeding.

2. (b) Temperature changes do not affect an altimeter on the ground (or very close to it). Altimeter errors caused by nonstandard temperature variations increase with altitude above the elevation of the nearest ground station providing the altimeter setting.

3. Wings containing the shape of a diamond were worn by members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

4. False. That is a tandem-seated airplane or an airplane with tandem seats. A tandem airplane has two (or more) wings with one behind the other in approximately the same plane.

5. Each aircraft was equipped with two spotlights, one in the nose and one in the aft fuselage. They were angled downward such that their beams of light intersected and coincided on the water only when the aircraft was at exactly 60 feet.

6. A low-level jet stream of 201 knots (231 mph) was recorded at the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire, on April 12, 1934, at an elevation of only 6,288 feet msl.

7. The Soviet Polikarpov Po-2 (NATO code name, Mule) was a ground-attack, aerial reconnaissance, and liaison aircraft built between 1928 and the late 1950s. Estimates indicate that between 20,000 and 30,000 (and possibly as many as 40,000) of these versatile, low-cost aircraft were produced.

8. Because there is no Class A airspace over the Hawaiian Islands, a VFR pilot may fly as high there as his airplane will take him.

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