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Monday, November 9, 2020

Aviation technology has its caveats

What’s Up
By LeRoy Cook

Spring returned last week, with warm temperatures and breezy conditions. Pilots even had thermal turbulence to battle, just like in the summertime. However, the rough air topped out at 3000 feet above the ground, rather than the much higher altitude needed in July. I don’t see any reason to suffer, so I climb as far as needed.

There was renewed transient traffic activity in and out of the airport last week, like the 1959 Cessna 182B in on Saturday, along with a Cessna Skyhawk, a Beech Bonanza A36 and a Piper Comanche. I flew with Greg Rodgers in his Cessna 182B from Lees Summit and Dennis Walrath in his Beech Bonanza V35 from Clinton. Walt Brownsberger was over from Olathe in his Cessna Skylane.

Out of the local fleet, John Hurshman flew the Cessna Skyhawk, I ventured forth in a Cessna 150 and Roy Conley exercised his Grumman Tr2. One of the Piper TriPacers was out and the SkyDive KC King Air E90 jump plane contributed some skydivers to the sky.

The rigors of the Covid 19 precautions continue to leave airports somewhat lacking in traffic and services. Staffing at fixed-base operators is reduced, sometimes to meet diminished demand and sometimes due to positive test results. Most places are glad to see you drop in; yours may be the only plane they’ve seen that morning. Even air traffic controllers have less going on, despite combined positions. Still and all, I feel better making a trip in a personal airplane than making multiple highway stops or masking up in airliner terminals.

It can be a challenge for pilots to combine the integration of the basic airplane, a mixed-bag suite of radios and an autopilot that’s supposed to make the plane and avionics play together. It takes study of all the operating manuals for these three competing sets of devices, and even then there can be glitches. The other day, we had the autopilot coupled to the GPS, steering toward interception of a pink course line, when the airplane proceeded to make a 360 degree turn, for no reason we could think of. We went back to heading mode and then re-engaged GPS tracking, with no further deviations. Kinda gets your attention.

Our weekly question was about the number of pilots needed to take an airliner full of people across the Pacific ocean on a 12 to 14-hour flight. I think a relief crew of two pilots are required, so there are four pilots on board, two at the controls and two resting in the crew bunk area, taking 3.5 hours shifts. It’s still tiring what with the time changes involved. Specifics vary with each airline. For next week, tell us why the letter “Q” is pronounced “kay-beck” instead of “cue-beck” or “queue-beck” when using the phonetic alphabet .Send your answers to