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Test PilotTest Pilot

Pilot Briefing July 2019
Illustration by John Sauer

1. True or false? The current world speed record for a manned aircraft (not a spacecraft) is 4,520 mph and Mach 6.7.

2. Westinghouse developed the chicken gun (later called a rooster booster) in 1943. What is it and for what is it used?

3. From reader Paul Reinman: An airplane is on a heading of 360 degrees while under the influence of a wind from 270 degrees. The airplane is experiencing

A. a headwind component.
B. a tailwind component.
C. neither a headwind nor a tailwind component.
D. The answer cannot be determined with the information provided.

4. Why is the time in Greenwich, England, (UTC time) often referred to as “Z time” or “Zulu time?”

5. Ninety-two percent of the Lockheed SR–71 Blackbird is made of titanium that can withstand skin temperatures of up to 950 degrees Fahrenheit, the result of friction and compression caused by speeds in excess of 2,000 mph. Most of the world’s titanium came from the Soviet Union. How did the United States manage to obtain titanium from the Soviet Union that would then be used to build airplanes to spy on its Cold War adversary?

6. A pilot arrives over her destination only to discover that its single runway is closed because of a disabled aircraft. To loiter above the airport for as long as possible before having to divert to an alternate airport, the pilot should maintain altitude using

A. VY.
B. VX.
C. the speed for best glide.
D. none of the above.

7. From reader Bill Havener: In what type of airplane did James “Jimmy” Doolittle, Amelia Earhart, and Charles Lindbergh learn to fly?

8. True or false? During World War II, a pilot flying a British dirigible pursued and shot down a Heinkel He.115, a twin-engine seaplane used by the Luftwaffe.

Test Pilot Answers

1. True. This record was set on October 3, 1967, by William J. “Pete” Knight in a North American X–15 at an altitude of 102,100 feet. Power was provided by two rocket engines. Three X–15s were built, and Neil Armstrong flew one of them hypersonically. Eight pilots flew the aircraft above 264,000 feet (50 miles).

2. The compressed-air cannon is used to shoot chicken carcasses at the windshields and leading edges of high-speed aircraft to test their ability to endure bird strikes. The carcasses, however, must not be frozen.

3. The answer is B. The easiest way to visualize this is to draw a wind triangle. The length of the hypotenuse (groundspeed) of the right triangle is greater than the length of the long side (airspeed). If groundspeed exceeds airspeed, the airplane obviously is experiencing a tailwind.

4. Every time zone in the world has an alphabetic designation, and the Greenwich Meridian lies in zone Z. The Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones are the R, S, T, and U zones, respectively.

5. Working through Third World countries and bogus operators, the CIA set up a company that supposedly represented a large chain of Italian restaurants. The titanium was presumably needed by this firm to supply its vast number of restaurants with large pizza ovens.

6. The answer is D. The pilot should use the speed for maximum endurance, which is normally not provided in pilot operating handbooks. It is the speed that results from using the minimum power required to maintain a given altitude and can be determined by trial and error.

7. All three learned in a Curtiss JN–4 Jenny, a nickname that was derived from JN–4, with an open-topped 4 looking like a Y (“JN–Y”). The Jenny was the backbone of civil aviation in America following the Great War.

8. False. Some incredulous eventsoccurred during the war, but this wasn’t one of them.

Barry Schiff

Barry Schiff

Barry Schiff has been an aviation media consultant and technical advisor for motion pictures for more than 40 years.

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