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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Supersonic traffic may be overhead

What’s Up

By LeRoy Cook 

There was a slow traffic count at Butler airport last week, but clandestine fuel sales were seen on the pump, so there were evidently planes going in and out that went unobserved. I saw a Cessna Skyhawk (probably a Central MO university craft) and an Army Guard Blackhawk UH-60 helicopter, along with a Cessna 172 that followed us in on the GPS36 approach Thursday morning.

 From the local hangars, Alvin Griffin and Dave Hopkins flew their Beech Bonanza N35 after its annual airworthiness inspection, Dayne Kedigh blew a solo cross-country from Higginsville in a Cessna 150 and I had the Cessna Skyhawk out. I also “flew” a Cessna 150 from the hangar to the fuel pumps; might as well take it up, around the patch, to warm up the oil before refueling, eh?

 When it comes to finding something harmless to do when dodging Covid 19 droplets, there’s a lot to be said for going flying. Your plane has been sitting unoccupied, so the virus bits have died away, and you’re by yourself, far from any potential source of infection. Going up to practice maneuvers and procedures helps keep you sharp as a pilot, and airplanes stay in better shape with regular use, rather than sitting and rusting.

 We may soon be hearing more than just B-2 Stealth bombers and seeing contrails other than coast-to-coast airliners going overhead.  Last week, it was announced that Kansas’ DOT and the FAA have designated a supersonic test track west of here, where companies doing flight tests for possible civilian faster-than-sound airplanes can let them run. The route is 710 nautical miles long, a long oval out west and back over the state of Kansas. Supposedly, there will be minimal to no noise heard at ground level as all test runs will be above 39,000 feet. 

 For 40 years or more, it’s been illegal to fly at supersonic speeds over the land area of the United States, expect for special circumstances like the Space Shuttle returning or military planes in designed areas. We used to hear (and feel) sonic booms regularly as military pilots busted Mach. Now some firms are wanting to build civil supersonic planes, promising to tame the shock wave’s impact so it can’t do damage or annoy us at ground level. To do that, research is needed, and the Kansas Track is supposed to give such an opportunity.

 Last week we asked why pilots are advised to fly along the right side of a road or rail line when following it in bad weather. It is, as you might expect, so that planes meeting each other going in opposite directions can be in a better position to avoid a collision. In addition, most planes place the pilot’s seat on the left side of the cockpit, giving a better view if flown to the right. Okay, for next week, what color of paint is commonly used on fire-fighting aircraft? You can send your answers to