Saturday, October 28, 2006

Airplane pilots, gyro pilots and reckless flying

Today I got to thinking about flying airplanes and flying gyrocopters and the difference in the pilots of the two types of aircraft. Airplane pilots are usually more disciplined in their flying and I think one reason for that is because the fixed wing pilots have had formal flight instruction and the majority of them are licensed pilots, whereas most gyro pilots will get a very minimum of instruction and will fly or attempt to fly his gyro with very little knowledge of the machine other than how to get it off the ground and back on.

That type of pilot never bothers to learn aerodynamics or any of the subjects he would learn in a formal flight instruction program and in ground school. That pilot is one who is dangerous to himself and to others as well. It's amazing that the macho low time gyro pilot will hot-dog and show off in his gyro before he really learns to fly the machine.

One of the very important things I learned about in ground school way back when I took airplane flight instrucrion was wake turbulence. It's invisible and it can be deadly to the pilot in a small aircraft who unknowingly flys into it. Simply put, wake turblence is air that is moving in a horizontal whirlwind like manner from each wing tip of an airplane that is flying and generating lift. Wake turbulence hangs in the air behind the generating aircraft and then slowly begins to dissipate. Should a small aircraft fly into the wake turbulence it can literally be destroyed, torn apart ,by the turbulence.

On my first solo in an airplane , when I turned onto the downwind leg of the traffic pattern I saw a DC3 in the pattern in front of me. I left the pattern and flew a gigiantic 360 then after the DC3 landed I re-entered the pattern and went in for a safe landing. Leaving the pattern for a few minutes allowed the the DC3 time to land and then time for his wake turbulence to clear the runway . I survived that first trip around the pattern alone because in ground school I had learned about wake turbulence.

Some time later Docko and I were on a cross country trip in our airplane. The air was very calm, not a ripple. Suddenly we began to be bounced about severely. It was all I could do to keep the airplane right side up and I was wondering what the heck was going on then I spotted them...about five miles away were three Military C119 cargo planes flying three abreast. They were just small dots in the distance but their wake turbulence was still in the air and we had cut directly across it. When I saw the cargo planes then I understood instantly that our sudden rough ride was due to the turbulence they had created minutes before. Again, thanks to formal flight instruction and to ground school. The wake turbulence had had a few minutes to begin to dissipate before we flew into it ,still it was a rough and bouncy ride for a few minutes . When we had transited the area of the turbulence the air once again became smooth as could be.

How many low time gyro pilots who have had very little flight instruction and no ground school at all know about wake turbulence, or CAT, clear air turbulence ,or wind shear or lift vectors, or any of the myriad invisible things that go on in the realm of flight but cannot be seen by the pilot, but can ruin his day? How many take the time to learn all they can about flying and really understanding their gyros? Granted, some do , but there are others who prefer to do hotdog flying and endanger themselves and others. After more than 40 years of gyro flying and flight instructing, the closest I ever came to being killed while around gyros was by a low time hotdogging pilot who was showing off. His rotor blades missed us by no more than 4 feet!

Till next time
Marion Springer