Category Flying and Gliding



The World Wide Web is an aviation enthusiast’s dream. It features hundreds of excellent Web pages that present credible, responsible information on every aspect of aviation. But the Internet is a freewheeling, evanescent medium that allows one person’s ideas to be placed on a level ground with everyone else’s.

That’s why, no matter what pages I find interesting, you should regard their content with prudent skepticism. The content they presented when I visited them may have changed, even disappeared.

With those cautions and caveats, which are no more than common sense to those of us who turn to the Internet for more and more of our information, here are some Web sites I found interesting, even if I didn’t buy into everything they had to say.

Aviation History

www. first-to-fly. com/

Here’s the full story of the Wright brothers’ historic first flight, told with the perspective and scholarship of the Wright Brothers Centennial Museum Online. For teachers and aviation history buffs, this is the Web’s best Wright brothers’ site.

aeroweb. brooklyn. cuny. edu/history/wright/first. html

This is the account, in Orville’s own words, of what led up to the first flight of a man-controlled, powered airplane. From the glider test flights to the inevitable mechanical failures to the final successful flight, this is the account from the man who shared a place in history as the first flyer.

aerofiles. com/chrono. html

This site’s designers say it’s still being completed, and if so, we have something special to look forward to. This is a good, though not comprehensive, chronology. It skims over the last three decades, but makes up for it with an excellent store of entertaining, informative biographies. The Aerofiles home page (aerofiles. com) is also worth visiting.

www. aviation-history. com

This site is a treasure trove for fans of real-life histories, many of which are featured under the “Airmen” link. What’s more, there are few sites anywhere else on the Web where you’ll find such excellent photos of such obscure airplanes. It’s the only site I’ve seen that includes a photo of Great Britain’s vintage Bristol Beaufighter— not that I was looking for one. Still, this site features some serious history that’s found in very few other places, on the Web or off. The sound file will drive you out of your gourd after a few “passes” of the war bird whose growling engine is part of the site’s multimedia package. Wait a few minutes and it will stop, or just click the Stop button on your browser to silence it.

www. hq. nasa. gov/ofBce/pao/History/SP-468/cover. htm

If you’re a true student of aviation history, and not just looking at the pictures, here’s a site worth your time. But bring a notebook, a No. 2 pencil, and one of those pink erasers, because this site can convince you you’re going back to school. After a few minutes, you’ll find that you’re being rewarded with some of the best analysis of how aviation has steadily evolved into a sophisticated science. By the way, this is a government site, so don’t expect any flash and glitz. It’s all business, and very sound business at that.

members. tripod. com/usfighter/

Yes, this is one of those annoying Tripod member sites that insists on forcing pop-up windows down our throats. Simply minimize, but do not close, the first one and you won’t be bothered any longer. Once past the pop-up, the site has its value. It features photos and histories of the aces of America’s air wars and the airplanes they flew. The site is professionally presented, even though it is hosted by Tripod. By the way, if you have not gotten your fill of John Gillespie Magee Jr.’s maudlin verse “High Flight,” you can read it here, along with a brief biography of the unfortunate author.

www. nationalaviation. org/inductee. html

Amateurishly constructed, this site can boast only one virtue: It features excellent biographies of some of the greatest figures in aviation. The write-ups of heroes range from aviation publishing giant Elrey Jeppesen to T. Claude Ryan, the man whose company built Charles Lindbergh’s The Spirit of St. Louis. Aviation has some of the greatest and most courageous characters to be found, and these biographical sketches succeed in bringing them alive. This is a “don’t-miss” destination for the aviation history buff.

www. thehistorynet. com/THN archives/AviationT echnology

Here’s a fair warning: Don’t visit this site unless you have hours to devote to learning the history of aviation, and more. The aviation portion is excellent in itself, but it’s part of an online history undertaking that will hold armchair historians in thrall for hours at a time. The tragic life of Ernst Udet, the World War I ace and partial inspiration for the film The Great Waldo Pepper, is one of the finest stories on the great pilot I’ve ever seen. All the content on this site is of the highest quality—a joy to visit.

www. airmailpioneers. org/

A good starting point for learning about the most daring of all pilots, I would argue—the air mail pilots who braved wicked weather, treacherous equipment, and callousness toward safety that causes modern pilots to blanche.

www. centercomp. com/dc3/

An excellent resource for information on the most important aircraft ever made. A case could be made that the almost indestructible DC-3 was the first airplane airline passenger trusted to carry them safely. Berliners, for their part, will never forget the C-47, as the military calls the DC-3, because during the long months of the Berlin Air Lift, its blunt nose and growling engines meant food, life, and survival. The site also serves as a meeting point for the community of airplane builders, pilots, and lovers of the airplane Gen. Dwight Eisenhower called one of the four most important weapons of World War II.

www. swizzle. com/panam. htm

This personal page by Rick Bollar is a good resource about all things Pan Am, from its heyday in the era of the great Clipper Ships to its darkest hours following the Lockerbie bombing and its ultimate demise in bankruptcy and disgrace. Now, the greatest name in airline history is making a comeback. If it pertains to Pan Am, you’ll find it here.

www. tighar. org/

No other group has been as dedicated—or should I say obsessed?—with the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart as TIGHAR. This Web site lets us all wallow in the murky pool, though with more scholastic research and less wackiness than others might bring to the subject.

www. thehistorynet. com/AviationHistory/articles/1997/00797 cover. htm

C. V. Glines, the excellent aviation historian, beautifully spins a concise biography of Earhart. This is all you’ll need to know to hold your own in a cocktail party debate over Earhart’s fate.

www. pig. net/~stearm an/airshow/wind. html

A delightful tidbit of barnstorming lore. Don’t miss “Lisa’s Rules for Wingwalking,” with special attention to the first and the last rules. www. deepsky. com/~mango/gustave/Pages/article8.html

Not many have the audacity to publicly confess a manic obsession with the first-flight claims of Gustave Whitehead, but the creators of this site do. Here you can find more testimony than you’d ever thought existed on claims that the Wrights were the second to fly—some of it compelling.

www. worldbook. com/fun/aviator/html/av6.htm

From the folks at World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia, this is a good reference site on the life and career of Charles Lindbergh. www. lindberghtrial. com/

More concerned with the Lindbergh kidnapping than Lucky Lindy’s life and career, this site nonetheless provides a comprehensive coverage of the greatest tragedy in the life of America’s most famous flying hero.

www. pbs. org/wgbh/amex/lindbergh/index. html

As you’d expect, PBS is behind the best Lindbergh site on the Web. It’s all here, and with authority. www. richthofen. com/rickenbacker/

Here’s the complete text of Eddie Rickenbacker’s classic memoir, Fighting the Flying Circus. Rickenbacker knew better than anyone what World War I flying was about, and he tells it in his own words.

www. cfanet. com/mlewis/

A very rich, compelling resource for World War I aviation, though hamstrung by a clunky home page. Do the work required to dig into each category, because every vein yields a golden nugget.

www. richthofen. com/

Here’s the complete text of The Red Fighter Pilot, by Manfred von Richtofen, the infamous Red Baron. Richtofen was a complex and thoughtful man who foresaw his early death and was haunted by it.


This comprehensive site is a history text in itself, though more readable than most. It places the air war in its proper context in one of the deadliest conflagrations of the twentieth century.

www. mustangops. com/legends/yeager. html

Brief, photo-rich biography of Chuck Yeager, a war hero who went on to help pioneer modern aviation. www. thehistorynet. com/AviationHistory/articles/1997/01972 cover. htm

Another C. V. Glines great going inside the cockpit and bomb bay of Bockscar, the B-29 that dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

Aerobatics and Air Shows

acro. harvard. edu/IAC/acro_figures. html

Like a book that reveals the magicians’ secrets, this site unveils the secrets behind aerobatics. Aside from Neil Williams’ classic book, Aerobatics (see Appendix C, “Recommended Reading), this is probably the most clear and concise explanation of aerobatics maneuvers you’re likely to find.

www. am-tek. com/WorldFederationOfAirshowCongress/airshowact. htm

For the incurable air show junkie, here’s the lowdown on all your favorite performers. www. airshows. com/

Presents still more air show lowdown. www. blueangels. navy. mil/

This site covers the Navy’s Angel Demonstration Team in more detail than you’d ever want to know. www. nellis. af. mil/thunderbirds/default. htm

The Air Force’s Thunderbirds Demonstration Team has a Web site that’s almost as thrilling as their performances.

Ballooning and Blimps.

www. launch. net/

From the basics of ballooning theory to weather to auctions where balloonists can buy their own bags of hot air, this site is the place—an excellent resource. www. aibf. org/

The greatest balloon festival has the greatest Web site, with stunning, high-resolution photographs of previous fiestas and information about coming ones. www. lakehurst. navy. mil/web99/hindenb. html

Going up in flames is not a major concern for modern balloon and blimp pilots, but it used to be. Here’s a story of the worst aviation disaster the world had seen when it occurred in 1937. Listen to the chilling audio account if your nerves can stand it.

www. goodyear. com/us/blimp/index. html

The Goodyear blimp is the Granddaddy of airships, if only because it’s been around the longest and has nearly universal consumer recognition. Here’s the skinny on flying the blimp, and an explanation of why your chances of getting to ride in it are about the same as winning the Super Lotto.

www. ohio. com/kr/blimp/blimp. htm

Here’s where the blimp yields its mystery. Find out what’s inside that big bag of gas that bobs over the ball game every weekend.

Flight Safety

airdisaster. com/

There’s no better aviation safety site on the Internet than this one. More readable than the National Transportation Safety Board’s site, and more richly layered. As with any site whose focus is airplane wrecks, it can be unnerving at times.

www. ntsb. gov/aviation/aviation. htm

This site provides a fountain of flight safety information and statistics that the American aviation industry relies on. Dense but rewarding.

General Aviation, Gliding, and Helicopters

www. avweb. com/

AVweb is rapidly becoming the Web’s best source of flying news and information. Sign up for the weekly e-mail newsletter. www. aopa. oig/intlcx. shtml

The AOPA is one of the stalwarts of aviation. The organization tirelessly advocates for general aviation pilots, and they serve as one of the best conduits for information and education.

www. ssa. org/

The Soaring Society of America takes an active role in promoting the sport, including sponsoring clubs and hosting competitions. The result is a highly loyal membership. If soaring appeals to you, this site will give you all the information you need to get started, including a roster of training sites and plenty of information about soaring and gliding.

www. groenbros. com/

Groen Brothers company is working hard to develop a high-technology gyroplane, and it seems to be succeeding. Gyroplanes are regarded by some as a curiosity, but they have a lot of advantages over both airplanes and helicopters. Groen Brothers is adding a liberal helping of innovation to create what promises to be a remarkable family of aircraft.

Future of Aviation

www. aerovironment. com/

This company is onto something big, if you ask me. Nothing rings cash registers nowadays like a technology that is highly advanced while remaining earth-friendly. Combine all that with the fact that these aircraft are being used as airborne telecommunications platforms, and you have some serious potential.

www. geocities. com/C apeC anaveral/9334/

This page, called “Blackbird—Past, Present & Future,” is enough to make some lovers of the “big iron” stand up and salute. The SR-71 is the biggest and baddest of a very tough breed. This site is the most complete and authoritative on the subject of the “Ablative Native” you’re going to find.

www. moller. com/skycar/index. html

Moeller Skycars are one of the dandiest vehicles to come down the pike in a long time. I can see the Moeller Skycars becoming the playthings of the very rich, but I have my doubts if they’ll be in most people’s price range for a while. According to the manufacturer, this little beauty cruises above the madding crowd at a cool 350 m. p.h. at a gas-sipping 15 miles per gallon. Can anybody lend me a million clams?

spaceflight. nasa. gov/index-m. html

When it comes to a manned space station, the future is today. Though it’s in its nascent stages in 2000, the International Space Station is growing one module at a time. For a tour of this “ultimate flying machine,” check out this excellent site.

www. scaled. com/

Burt Rutan’s company, Scaled Composites, is defining the leading edge of aerospace design. If you want to glimpse the airplane technology of tomorrow, snoop around this site.

www. solotrek. com/

I’d fly a SoloTrek in a New York minute, but something tells me this is going to be on the same list of dangerous luxuries as the Moeller Skycar. Still, we can dream, can’t we?




Ahrens, C. Donald. Meteorology Today: An Introduction to Weather, Climate, and the Environment, 3d ed. St. Paul: West Publishing Co.

A must – read for any serious student of flying, this venerable text covers the gamut of weather, from atmospheric optics such as rainbows and sundogs to the most obtuse concept of vorticity—one of the most fundamental principles of meteorology. Don’t miss the description of the “green flash,” which is one of the rarest occurrences in the sky. Once you learn about it, you’ll never stop watching for it.

Bach, Richard. Jonathan Livingston Seagull. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1970.

Bach is one of the “Holy Trinity” of aviation writers, alongside Gann and Saint-Exupery (see later in the appendix). This classic, Bach’s best work, contains not a single airplane, nor a pilot. Yet it is the fullest, most transcendental treatment of aviation ever written. No pilot’s bookshelf should be without his other greats, Biplane, Stranger to the Ground, and Illusions.

Bilstein, Roger E. Flight in America: From the Wrights to the Astronauts. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.

Good “hole-filler” that bridges the gaps left in other texts, beginning with the birth of manned airplane flight and ending with the Space Race.

Brennan, T. C. “Buddy.” Witness to the Execution: The Odyssey of Amelia Earhart. Frederick, CO: Renaissance House, 1988.

Another take on the Saipan theory, which trots out a purported eyewitness to the execution of the noted aviatrix by Japanese soldiers. Brutal in its premise, a single source of untestable credibility is far from a solid foundation to build a theory on. Still, for the conspiracists and Earhart cognoscenti, this is an entertaining take on the case.

Buck, Robert N. Weather Flying, 3dEd. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1988.

Robert Buck’s book is in its second generation as an aviation classic. Buck doesn’t stop at describing weather theory, though he deals with the science deftly. He goes on to

bring the principles of weather straight into the cockpit, and adds a heaping helping of commonsense application. Cole, Duane. Conquest of Lines and Symmetry. Milwaukee: Ken Cook Transnational, 1970.

This is one of a pair of books by the “father figure” of aerobatics, whose books have nurtured more aerobatic pilots than any other author’s. Written in charmingly simple prose and designed with equally simple diagrams, this book should be a fixture in every aspiring aerobatic pilot’s library.

Conway, Carle. The Joy of Soaring: A Training Manual. Hobbs, NM: Soaring Society of America Inc., 1989.

Devine, Thomas E., and Richard M. Daley. Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident. Frederick, CO: Renaissance House, 1987.

A well – researched, breathlessly conspiratorial essay based on the premise that Earhart and her navigator died on the Japanese – controlled island of Saipan after missing Howland Island, a refueling stop on the most dangerous leg of her globe-circling voyage.

Donahue, J. A. The Earhart Disappearance: The British Connection.

Almost addictive for its sheer wackiness, this could be regarded as the most outlandish Earhart disappearance theory, if only for its elaborate futility. The British are probably innocent as charged, but it’s fun to go along for the ride.

Earhart, Amelia. Last Flight. New York: Orion Books, 1988.

With the eerie sense of impending doom, this collection of Earhart’s own cable dispatches traces her final flight from an aborted first attempt to circle the world to her Miami-Lae journey that, for some, has still not come to an end. The book was complied by her husband, publisher George Putnam, and features a foreword by aviation historian Walter J. Boyne.

Gann, Ernest K. Fate Is the Hunter. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961.

Ernie Gann is to the aviation novel what Agatha Christie is to the parlor mystery. That is best exemplified by his novels The Aviator, which was turned into a powerful feature film, and The High and the Mighty. Fate… is Gann’s personal memoir of the power of fate—call it dumb luck—in determining life and death of pilots. Filled with haunting stories of survival told in Gann’s unforgettable style. Every pilot should know this book, because it defines the shared pilot psyche.

Gibbs-Smith, C. H. Flight Through the Ages. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1974.

A pleasant journey through aviation history with hundreds of drawings so quirky that they border on camp. Delightfully detailed.

Goerner, Fred. The Search for Amelia Earhart. New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1966.

Thirty years after Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in the Atlantic, radio broadcaster Goerner patches together an off-kilter theory in a fast-paced, readable book that

makes it fun to join, at least for a moment, the conspiracist camp. His conclusions are probably wrong, but Goerner does know how to write an investigation adventure tale.

Harrison, James P. Mastering the Sky: A History of Aviation from Ancient Times to the Present. New York: Sarpedon, 1996.

An authoritative account of the high and finer points of the history of flight.

Holley, John. Aviation Weather Services Explained. Newcastle, WA: ASA, Inc., 1997.

This companion workbook to the FAA’s Aviation Weather Services expands on the explanations of weather charts and forecasts included in the government publication. John Holley, a former professor of mine who planted a fondness for weather in me and hundreds of students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, teaches pilots how to use the tools handed to them by the FAA’s authors. With his characteristic humor, he brings a potentially dry topic to life and puts pilots on a first-name basis with weather services offerings.

Kalakuka, Christine, and Brent Stockwell. Hot-Air Balloons. New York: Friedman/Fairfax Publishers, 1998.

Like most books about hot-air ballooning, this one is heavy on the photography, all of which is high-quality and appealing. From the history of the sport to the nuts and bolts of how the bulbous behemoths function, Kalakuka and Stockwell have created a book that will satisfy both the coffee-table browser and the balloon enthusiast wanting a reminder of what makes balloonists so passionate about their sport.

Kershner, William K. The Basic Aerobatic Manual. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Bill Kershner is as familiar to many pilots as their Dick-and-Jane books. From student pilot to advanced aviator, Kershner, through his books, is America’s aeronautics professor. In this book, he brings the same humor and clarity to aerobatics as he does to each of the subjects he writes about.

Langewiesche, Wolfgang. Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1972.

Though it was originally written in the 1940s, Langewiesche’s classic is as pertinent today as it ever was. It should be required reading for every would-be pilot, every flight instructor who teaches beginning pilots, and anyone who enjoys graceful writing about flying.

Lester, Peter F. Turbulence: A New Perspective for Pilots. Englewood, CO: Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc., 1993.

For the first time, the subject of turbulence has been pulled out of the hurly-burly of general meteorology texts where it was often tossed in as an afterthought. Lester has given it the prominence it deserves with this exhaustive, readable, and well-illustrated guide to phenomena from dust devils to clear-air turbulence.

Longyard, William H. Who’s Who in Aviation History: 500 Biographies. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1994.

A perfect browsing book for aficionados that captures in concise articles biographies of some of the rogues, rascals, and heroes of aviation. Lovell, Mary S. The Sound of Wings: The Life of Amelia Earhart. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.

This is the best of the Earhart biographies. Lovell has her eyes open when she examines the life of an aviatrix who was more comfortable as an advocate for women and equality than she was in a cockpit. Exceptionally entertaining. Well illustrated and indexed.

Mason, Sammy. Stalls, Spins, and Safety. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1982.

Sammy Mason has written the undisputed last word on stalls and spins, perhaps the most misunderstood and needlessly feared part of flight. Mason’s essay is a classic of explanatory prose.

Milne-Thomson, L. M. Theoretical Aerodynamics. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1958.

This is a volume you’ll be tempted to display in a prominent place in the front parlor in order to impress visitors. One thing you won’t be likely to do with it is actually read it. True, there are some nuggets nestled in the ore, but most of Milne-Thomson’s dense tome is closely reasoned formulas that defy comprehension and invite slumber. This book is on my list of the last book I’d want with me on a desert island.

Newton, Dennis. Severe Weather Flying. 1983.

Newton has written one of the best explanations of severe weather to reach the flying public. Newton’s explanations of the fundamental elements of severe weather, and the ways they combine and interact to make bad weather worse, are readable and memorable.

Rabinowitz, Harry. Conquer the Sky: Great Moments in Aviation. New York: Metro Books, 1996.

A well-illustrated guide to aviation history, from ancient times to the present.

Roessler, Walter, Leo Gomez, and Gail Lynne Green. Amelia Earhart: Case Closed? Hummelstown, PA: Aviation Publishers, 1995.

This book provides the details behind the most likely explanation to a puzzling mystery. Forget the Japanese execution theory, the lady-spy theory, and all the other crank solutions that this book handily refutes. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one.

Saint-Exupery, Antoine de. Airman’s Odyssey. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

No writer evokes the mysterious union between plane, pilot, and sky like the Good Saint Ex. This volume contains his three best works: Wind, Sand, and Stars; Night

Flight; and Flight to Arras. Beyond his incomparable writing about Hying, Saint Ex was a pioneer of early international aviation, a French resistance patriot, and a war hero who was ultimately shot down during an airborne reconnaissance mission. His poignant death in an airplane renders his timeless writing all the more powerful.

Serling, Robert J. The Only Way to Fly. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1976.

A masterful chronicle of Western Airlines, the national airline that traces its origins farther back in history than any other airline. Western Airlines helped blaze a trail for air mail, then became one of the most storied airlines in the world, and its tale is well-told by this veteran biographer of the great airlines.

Slepyan, Norbert, ed. Crises in the Cockpit: Other Pilots’ Emergencies and What You Can Learn from Them. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1986.

More than merely a collection of hangar stories—which it also has in thrilling, heart-pounding spades—this collection of real-life lessons in disaster and near disaster is readable and instructional from first page to last.

Slepyan, Norbert, ed. Defensive Flying. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1986.

Sometimes it’s not a pilot’s actions that get him into trouble, it’s the actions of a host of other people involved in completing a safe flight. From the fuel handler to the air-traffic controller, a defensive pilot is on the lookout for errors that can endanger a flight.

Smith, Hubert “Skip.” The Illustrated Guide to Aerodynamics. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: TAB Books, Inc., 1985.

Smith takes the fear out of aerodynamics. Even those of us with a fondness for the arcana of the forces acting on an airplane can get overwhelmed by some of the standard texts. Smith doesn’t shun the Greek alphabet that runs through aerodynamics, but the pace at which he motors through the subject allows us to follow him at a reasonably close distance. Clear and pertinent illustrations help immensely.

Spence, Charles F. The Right Seat Handbook: A White-Knuckle Flyer’s Guide to Light Planes. New York: TAB Books, 1995.

Spence has put together an important instructional guide that will familiarize pilots’ spouses and friends with the workings of the airplane, and even help them become part of an informal flight crew. There are plenty of things passengers can do to help out during a flight that will increase the safety of the flight and make it more fun for everybody. This charming little book opens up new adventures for passengers and pilots alike.

Trollip, Stanley R., and Richard S. Jensen. Human Factors for General Aviation. Englewood, CO: Jeppesen Sanderson, 1991.

The human element is almost always the weakest link in the safety chain, and until we replace human pilots with machines—which will be never!—pilots must continue to increase their awareness of how their decisions and physical condition affect the

outcome of a flight. This book brings the frailty of the human equation home to roost.

Whelan, Robert F. Cloud Dancing: Your Introduction to Gliding and Motorless Flight. Highland City, FL: Rainbow Books, Inc., 1995.

Williams, Jack. The Weather Book: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the USA’s Weather. New York: Vintage Books, 1992.

If there’s one thing USA Today newspaper is good at, it’s explanatory graphics. This book is chock-full of them. Combine that powerful learning tool with Williams’ wideranging curiosity, and the result is a book so instructive that it’s almost addictive.

Williams, Neil. Aerobatics. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979.

This is the best, most readable book on aerobatics ever written. Williams was a test pilot and aerobatics master who never forgot the soul inside the pilot and how aerobatics can be used in the same way that an artist uses color—as an expression of spirit.

Wirth, Dick, and Jerry Young. Ballooning: The Complete Guide to Riding the Winds. New York: Random House, 1991.

This soft-cover manual on the sport of ballooning reads as a celebration of the people who drag their gondolas out to the launch site before dawn and spend exhausting, rewarding hours working together to get a single bag of hot air into the sky for a few hours of breathtaking flight. Wirth and Young remind us that there’s a lot more to ballooning than the balloons—more than anything else, it’s a sport about people and camaraderie.

Aviation Magazines and Periodicals

Air and Space Smithsonian

The tender to the aviation culture. Photographically and editorially unsurpassed.


Airlines and commercial aircraft. Of interest to professional pilots and serious flying enthusiasts. Aviation for Women

Published by Women in Aviation International mostly for female pilots and aviation hobbyists. Aviation History

The planes and people that brought us this far.

Aviation International News Corporate aviation.

Aviation Week & Space Technology

One of the most comprehensive of all aviation publications, providing very “inside baseball” content. This is what the experts read.

Balloon Life

If you like mixing your champagne and propane, this might be something you enjoy.


This publication is considered the standard by which others are measured, though that might be too high a pedestal. Still, a good magazine and widely available.


Published by the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association, a powerful general aviation advocate, this is probably the best general aviation magazine on the newsstand. Plane and Pilot

One of the best monthlies serving general aviation.

Professional Pilot

Serves the corporate and regional airline industry. A must-read for the aspiring professionals trying to crack into the business.

Sport Aviation

If you want to subscribe to this magazine, you have to join the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), which isn’t a bad idea after all.



Pilots use their own peculiar radio vocabulary that many nonpilots find difficult to interpret. Part of the confusion comes from technical jargon, and part of it comes from the strange sound of the phonetic alphabet.

To overcome the poor transmission quality of early aviation radios, pilots and air-traffic controllers all over the world constructed the phonetic alphabet in which a word represents each letter of the alphabet, thereby sidestepping the similarity in sounds between letters like “b” and “v,” for example. Also, because aviation is an international enterprise, the variety of foreign accents and dialects could be confusing without some unifying language rules.

The international phonetic alphabet features some familiar English words, though their proper pronunciations under the international rules are, in a couple of cases such as the numeral 5 and the word “Oscar,” slightly different from how we might say them.

The alphabet is simple to learn and easy to remember. Once you know it, you’ll find yourself using it to spell out all sorts of words, names, and street names that a listener doesn’t understand.

Here’s the phonetic alphabet, numbers, and a few key words used by pilots and air-traffic controllers.

Phonetic Alphabet


Alpha (AL-fuh)


Bravo (BRAH-voh)


Charlie (CHAR-lee)


Delta (DEL-tuh)


Echo (ECK-koh)

Foxtrot (FAHKS-traht)

Подпись:Golf (Gahlf)

Hotel (hoh-TELL)

India (IN-dee-yuh)

Juliet (DZEW-lee-ett)

Kilo (KEE-loh)

Lima (LEE-muh)

Mike (Miyk)

November (noh-VEM – bur)

Oscar (OSS-kuh)

Papa (Puh-PAH)

Quebec (kay-BEK)

Romeo (ROH-mee-yoh)

Sierra (see-YEHR-ruh)

Tango (TANG-goh)

Uniform (YEW-nee – form)

Victor (VIK-tah) Whiskey (WISS-kee) X-Ray (EKS-ray) Yankee (YANG-kee) Zulu (ZOO-loo)

Zero (ZEE-roh)

One (wun)

Two (too)

Three (tree)

Four (foh-wuhr)

Five (fife)

Six (siks)

Seven (SEH-vin)

Eight (ait)



Nine (niner)


Words and Phrases

Here are some of the words and phrases pilots and controllers commonly use in their radio communications—and sometimes even in ordinary conversation or in the airport tavern:

abort To terminate a preplanned aircraft maneuver, for example, an aborted takeoff, aerodrome See airport. affirmative “Yes.”

airport The word most people use instead of aerodrome.

air taxi Used to describe the movement of a helicopter above the surface, but usually not more than 100 feet above the ground.

air traffic Sometimes called simply “traffic”; aircraft operating in the air or on an airport surface, not counting loading or parking areas.

air traffic control A service operated by appropriate authority to promote the safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of air traffic. Also called ATC.

altitude The height of a place or an object measured in feet above ground level (AGL), or above mean sea level (MSL).

ceiling The height above the ground of the lowest layer of clouds or obscuring phenomena; ceiling can be reported as “broken” “overcast,” or “obscured.” clearance Authorization of an aircraft to proceed under conditions speficied by air-traffic controllers. For example, “cleared for takeoff’ and “cleared to taxi.” distress The condition of being threatened by serious or imminent danger. emergency A distress or an urgency condition.

expedite A word used by ATC when prompt compliance is required to avoid the development of an imminent situation. In other words, “Get a move on!” final approach The part of a landing pattern that is aligned with the landing area. flameout An emergency condition caused by a loss of engine power.

“go ahead” Proceed with your message. Not to be used for any other purpose.

“go around” An instruction for a pilot to abandon his approach to landing, usually because of an obstruction or emergency on the runway, or because a distressed aircraft is making an approach to the runway.

handoff An action taken to transfer the radar indentification of an aircraft from one controller to another if the aircraft enters the receiving controller’s airspace and radio communications with the aircraft are transferred.

“how do you hear me?” A question relating to the quality of the transmission or intended to determine how well the transmission is being received.

“immediately” Used by ATC when such action compliance is required to avoid an imminent situation.

“I say again” The message will be repeated.

known traffic Aircraft whose altitude, position, and intentions are known to ATC.

light gun A handheld directional light-signaling device which emits a brilliant narrow beam of white, green, or red light as selected by the tower controller. The color and type of light transmitted can be used to approve or disapprove of anticipated pilot actions where radio communications are not available.

lost communications Loss of the ability to communicate by radio. Aircraft are sometimes referred to as NORDO (no radio).

“make short approach” A command used by ATC to inform a pilot to alter his traffic pattern so as to make a short final approach.

“mayday” The international radio distress signal. When repeated three times, it indicates imminent and grave danger and that immediate assistance is requested.

minimum fuel Indicates that an aircraft’s fuel supply has reached a state where, upon reaching the destination, it can accept little or no delay in refueling. This is not an emergency situation but merely a possibility of such situation should any undue delay occur.

“negative” “No,” or “permission not granted,” or “that is not correct.”

“out” The conversation is ended and no response is expected.

“over” “My transmission is ended”; “I expect a response.”

“pan-pan” The international radio urgency signal. When repeated three times, indicates uncertainty or alert followed by the explanation of the urgency.

“radar contact” Informs pilots that controllers have received position information on radar read-outs.

“radar contact lost” Informs pilots that controllers no longer receive position information on their screens.

“read back” Means “repeat my message back to me.”

“roger” “I have received all of your last transmission.” It should not be used to answer a question requiring a “yes” or “no” answer.

“say again” Used to request a repeat of the last transmission.

“speak slower” It’s as simple as that. A recommended request for student pilots to make to controllers who speak too fast.

“stand by” Means the pilot or controller must pause for a few seconds, usually to attend to other duties of a higher priority.

“taxi into position and hold” An instruction to a pilot to roll on to the departure runway and hold until takeoff clearance is received.

“traffic in sight” Used by pilots to inform a controller that previously issued traffic is in sight.

“traffic no factor” Indicates that the traffic described in a previously issued traffic advisory is no longer a factor.

“transmitting in the blind” A transmission from one station to other stations in circumstances where two-way communication cannot be established, but where the transmitting party thinks his transmitter is functioning properly.

“verify” Request confirmation of information.

“wilco” The contraction of the words “will comply,” meaning “I have received your message, understand it, and will comply with it.”



aerobatics A specialized form of flying in which airplanes diverge from level flight and gentle banking turns in favor of maneuvers that combine loops, rolls, spins, and inverted flight.

aerodynamics A segment of the complex field of fluid mechanics that deals with the motion of air, including the forces it exerts on objects moving through it. aeronaut Archaic phrase describing balloon pilots. Derives from Greek words meaning “voyager of the air.” aerostation Early French word for balloons.

aileron The hinged wing surfaces that are responsible for controlling the angle of bank. Controlled by the pilot using the control column.

aircraft Anything that flies under some kind of human control, including airplanes, helicopters, gyroplanes, gliders, hot-air balloons, gas balloons, airships, and other vehicles.

airfoil A surface whose shape helps create an aerodynamic force.

air pressure The force exerted by the air at a given altitude, produced by the collective collisions of air molecules on measuring devices.

air rage A newly created term describing outraged, sometimes violent expressions of passenger frustration over perceived misdeeds and maltreatment by airlines and onboard crew members.

airship Aircraft combining buoyant gas envelope with engines that permit control other than the simple movement of the winds.

airsickness A form of motion sickness brought on by air travel. Symptoms include light-headedness, increased salivation, sweating, clamminess, pallor, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

angle of attack The angle between the relative wind and the angle of the airfoil. Up to a critical angle where a stall occurs, a larger angle of attack translates into greater lift.

aspect ratio An aerodynamics formula that measures how skinny or squat a wing is. It divides the wing’s span by its front-to-back chord.

atmospheric optics The large number of visual phenomena created by the sun’s light reflecting, refracting, diffracting, or diffusing through or around airborne dust, water, and ice.

aviation A catch-all term describing almost any sport or occupation that takes place in the air. Derives from the Latin word avis, meaning “bird.”

avionics A term of art in aviation, combining the words “aviation” and “electronics.” Refers to the navigational and two-way radios, as well as new-generation high – technology devices.

balloon A contained volume of air or gas that, due to its temperature or gas density, becomes buoyant and can transport a cargo of pilot, passengers, or equipment. The balloon’s speed and direction are governed by winds.

barnstormer The name given to itinerant pilots of aviation’s early days who earned a living by selling passenger rides from farm fields and pastures.

barometer A device for measuring air pressure. Variations include the aneroid type, which uses an evacuated container, and the mercury type, which measures the height of a column of mercury in an evacuated glass tube.

basket The portion of a balloon where pilots, passengers, flight instruments, and fuel stay during flight. blackouts In aerobatic flying, the loss of vision or loss of consciousness caused by high g- forces.

canard Wing surfaces positioned in front of the airplane, serving the same purpose of the horizontal stabilizer positioned on the empennage of conventional airplanes.

certificate In flying terms, a certificate is a document that grants legal permission for pilots to operate an aircraft. Most certificates are issued without any expiration date, but pilots must practice certain skills on a regular basis to be able to legally exercise the privileges of their certificates. Certificates include private, commercial, flight instructor, and airline transport pilot.

collective pitch control A control used in rotary – wing aircraft that alters the pitch of all blades simultaneously.

conventional gear The configuration of landing gear featuring a tail wheel and two main gear located beneath the wings.

cyclic pitch control A control used in helicopters to selectively change the pitch of rotors in order to tilt the rotor disk and produce thrust.

dew point The temperature to which a particle of air would have to be chilled in order to force the water vapor contained in it to condense into droplets of visible moisture.

dirigible Massive, rigid-frame airship. Early dirigibles used flammable hydrogen gas for lift and were popular in Germany as cruise vehicles and as wartime aircraft.

dog fight The chaotic air battles between two or more enemy planes. Originally used during World War I, dog fights are still popular in aviation combat.

drag One of the four forces of flight, drag is the retarding force that reduces the effectiveness of thrust. Drag is typically an undesirable side effect of the viscosity of the air, or an unavoidable by-product of lift.

elevator In airplane, the hinged tail structure used to control an aircraft’s pitch. Elevator is controlled by the pilot using the control column. empennage The airplane’s structure that includes horizontal and vertical stabilizers and the aerodynamic elements that sustain smooth flow. envelope In a balloon or airship, a fabric or rubberized bag that is filled with hot air or buoyant gas to provide lift.

FBO Fixed-base operator, the airport business offering aircraft for rent or sale, flight instruction, fuel, maintenance, charter flying service, and flight instruction. If there’s only one business at an airport, it will probably be an FBO.

fixed-wing Indicates a type of aircraft in which the main lift-producing surface is stationary, as in an airplane. See also rotary-wing.

flight instruments Devices that measure parameters of flight, including airplane attitude, altitude, airspeed, rate of turn, direction, and rate of climb or descent. Flight instruments function using either gyroscopes or air pressure.

flight physiology The field of medicine that studies the body’s adaptability to flight and the maladies and injuries that flight can induce.

fuselage The portion of airplane structure that contains the cockpit, passenger cabin, and cargo compartment, and provides an anchor for the wings, empennage and, sometimes, the engine.

glide slope The imaginary slope, as shallow as 3 degrees, that pilots follow during descent to land. The glide slope is sometimes indicated by lights or electronic signals.

gliding A form of aviation in which high-lift airplanes fly by exchanging altitude for speed. Requires a mechanical launch, typically behind a powered airplane or using an automobile tow.

gondola See basket.

graveyard spiral A potentially dangerous maneuver in which a cycle of increasing bank angle, lower pitch angle, and increasing airspeed result in rapid descent. Unless it is remedied quickly and correctly, graveyard spiral can result in structural failure or crash.

gyroplane Also called “autogyro”; an aircraft that derives its lift from a typically free-turning rotor, and its thrust from an airplane – style propeller.

hangar An airport building where aircraft are stored and protected from the elements. Often serves as a place where mechanics and pilots maintain aircraft.

hangar bums Also known as “ramp rats,” a mostly affectionate reference to the groups of pilots and aviation lovers who hang around the airport, often in a favorite hangar or at an airport restaurant or tavern.

hangar flying The most daring, adventurous, and technically perfect form of flying there is—conversation usually carried on by pilots grounded by bad weather. hour The unit of time pilots use to measure flying experience. Usually measured from engine start to engine shut-down.

human factors The study of the factors affecting pilot performance and judgment, including emotions, physical health, relationships to other crew members, and response to stress.

human-powered flight Flight accomplished with no other power source of human pilots or crew members, requiring highly advanced, ultra-lightweight materials.

hypoxia A catch-all term covering a number of conditions in which the blood is robbed of oxygen, or in which oxygen-rich blood is incapable of delivering oxygen to parts of the body that need it.

instruments meteorological conditions (IMC) Combinations of visibility, precipitation, and clouds that, by federal regulations, limit flying to the pilots with instrument ratings and necessary recent flight experience.

Jenny A popular World War I-era trainer that became familiar in the postwar years when pilots purchased thousands of them as surplus for civilian use.

knife-edge flight Flight with a 90-degree bank angle (so that the wings are perpendicular to the ground), in which the fuselage becomes the major lift-producing surface.

knot A unit of speed measuring the number of nautical miles traveled in a given time.

lift One of the four forces of flight, lift is the pressure created by wings or other aerodynamic surface, or buoyancy, that counteracts the pull of gravity.

Mach number The ratio of an airplane’s speed to the speed of sound at flight altitude, density, and temperature; so called in honor of Austrian physicist Ernst Mach. mass ascension The ascension of a large number of hot – air or gas balloons in a brief period of time.

meteorology The science that investigates the atmosphere, including its interaction with earth’s surface, oceans, and life in general.

nautical mile The unit of length used to measure distance in aviation. Longer than the 5,820-foot statute mile commonly used in the United States, the nautical mile measures 6,076 feet in length.

night VFR Flying after sunset under rules that permit flying by pilots untrained in flying solely by instruments. parachute A fabric shroud that carries a payload, usually a person, and uses air resistance to reduce its rate of free fall. preflight inspection A thorough check of all aircraft systems made by pilots before each flight.

rotary-wing Indicates a type of aircraft in which the main lift-producing surface rotates, as in a helicopter or a gyroplane. See also fixed-wing. rotor The powered or free-turning set of airfoils that creates aerodynamic force in helicopters and gyroplanes. rudder In airplanes, the tail structure that controls yaw. Rudder is controlled by foot-operated rudder pedals.

seaplane Airplane equipped with floats in place of landing gear wheels, permitting takeoff, landing, and maneuvering on water. Some seaplane fuselages are designed like boat hulls and don’t need landing gear at all.

scale The size of features on a map.

soaring Staying aloft without losing altitude. Requires an atmospheric boost from wind or sun-generated thermals.

solo Technically, any flight time when a pilot is alone in the cockpit is considered solo time. It takes on extra significance when it represents the very first time a student pilot gets to fly the plane alone, without an instructor on board. The first solo is a memorable benchmark in a pilot’s life.

spatial disorientation A condition of the body’s equilibrium organs resulting in pilot uncertainty over his orientation to the earth’s surface.

spoilers Panels or plates installed on the upper wing surface of airplanes and gliders in order to disrupt the lift-producing flow of air, having the effect of slowing the aircraft or increasing its rate of descent.

stall In aerodynamics, the condition in which the smooth flow of air over the wing becomes turbulent, destroying lift force to a point that it falls below the force of gravity.

thrust One of the four forces of flight, thrust is the force produced by an engine that works in the opposite direction of drag.

thunderstorm A violent convective phenomenon that produces rain, hail, lightning, strong winds, and possibly more severe conditions such as squall lines, tornadoes, and waterspouts.

tricycle landing gear The configuration of landing gear featuring a nose gear and two main gear beneath the wings.

visual meteorological conditions (VMC) Combinations of visibility, precipitation, and clouds that do not limit flying to certified pilots only. weight One of the four forces of flight, weight is the force caused by tendency of any mass to move toward the earth; weight opposes lift. wind shear A change in wind direction or speed. Can produce swirling, turbulent air currents that can be hazardous to aircraft.

Returning to Flying’s Roots

There’s a little company in California called Millennium Jet, and if Icarus could have gotten his hands on what they’re making, he would have made it from Crete to Greece without hitting the drink before he got there.

Millennium Jet makes the SoloTrek XFV, or Exo – Skeletor Flying Vehicle. It’s a oneperson flying machine that looks like a cross between one of Leonardo da Vinci’s helicopters and the jet-powered backpack that some daredevils flew around in during the 1960s and 1970s.

Returning to Flying's Roots

The SoloTrek XFV could bring pilots closer than ever to the ease and maneuverability of bird flight.

(Millennium Jet)

Here’s how the XFV works: A pilot straps into it and fires up two shrouded fans above his head. Using hand grips, the pilot controls the speed and tilt of the fans to take off and maneuver above the ground. The XFV can stay in the air for 90 minutes and fly at 80 miles an hour.

The technology, which appears outlandish on first glance, has attracted NASA’s interest, and it’s sure to be one of the greatest toys for the wealthy since the DeLorean—and will probably cost about the same.

The XFV, Paul MacCready’s human-powered flying machines, and Burt Rutan’s visionary designs are all shades of a dream to fly higher, or faster, or less encumbered. Like the flyers of myth and the dreamers of antiquity, men and women with an itch to fly are still searching for their own wings.

The Least You Need to Know

>- Human-powered flight continues to improve, thanks to research around the world.

V Burt Rutan’s desert uSkunk Works" is inventing new rules for the way airplanes are designed.

^ Hyper-X and other hypersonic planes could pave the way for super-fast passenger flights.

^ Rival airline manufacturers Boeing and Airbus are trying to outbuild each other, and at feast on the drawing board. Airbus has the advantage.

^ Technology is close to enabling men and women to fly as high as, if not as gracefully as, the birds.

A Seat in the Cockpit

While NASA tries to reach Mach 10, passenger jet manufacturers are trying to make movie headsets that actually work.

A Seat in the Cockpit

On Course

A St Louis group interested in promoting space tourism put up a $5-million prize to the first de­sign team to launch a spaceship carrying three adults at least 62 miles high, and then be able to do it all again within two weeks. One of the 20-odd entrants is Burt Rutan, with a design called Proteus, that is already flying. Based on his resume, I’d put my money on Burt

All kidding aside, jet makers continue to press technology to the limit in making larger airplanes that will carry more people at a lower fuel cost than other jets have been able to manage.

The first of the “jumbo jets,” the Boeing 747, took the world by storm. When it was rolled out of the hangar in 1969, skeptics were sure a plane that big would fall out of the sky. Over the years, the 747 has grown even larger, and now a fully loaded late-model Jumbo weighs 875,000 pounds and can carry 568 passengers—though, at that capacity, not many of them will be flying in comfort.

Especially in its earliest days in passenger service, the 747 was a cruise ship in the sky. First-class passengers could climb a spiral staircase to an elegantly appointed upper level. In-flight movies, personal music systems—these became part of flying in a Boeing 747.

Now, the 747’s top spot among the behemoths of the sky is being challenged by Airbus Industrie, a European consortium with a “we try harder” attitude. Airbus is preparing to roll out a model it calls 3XX—a two-level jetliner that will carry 555 passengers in comfort. That’s less than the latest Boeing 747 can carry, but the 3XX-200 will be coming along right behind. It will be able to carry 656 passengers.

The future of jetliners, in the near future at least, seems to be pointing toward larger and larger planes with better and better safety features, although a single crash of one of these sky-ships could potentially be as deadly as the worst aviation disaster ever—when two 747s from Pan Am and KLM Airlines collided on the ground in Tenerife in 1977, killing 582 people.

But let’s look on the bright side. Jetliners of the future will be connected to the Internet using satellite feeds, and the technologies now being developed to speed up the Internet will replace the golf magazines flight attendants pass out now with video and music on demand—for a price, of course.

Skunking the Competition

Burt Rutan has become the Master Designer in his own desert Skunk Works. Rutan revolutionized airplane design, and he leaves a stylistic mark on his airplanes as recognizable as the architectural flourishes of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Most of his airplane designs include a canard in front of the craft and a pusher prop or a jet engine either on the back of the wing or behind the fuselage. Rutan’s designs typically throw the idea of a rudder out the window and replace it with a number of smaller vertical surfaces spread around the airplane, from turned-up wingtips to twin stabilizers stuck out at the two ends of a horizontal stabilizer.

In the 1970s, Rutan designed a series of small, kitbuilt planes called VariEze, Quickie, and Long-EZ. These speedy experimental planes with outlandish designs quickly began turning up at airports around the country, and with relatively tiny engines, they were outracing other beefier, higher-horsepower conventional airplanes.

Around the World on One Tank of Gas

Rutan cemented his reputation in aviation history, and earned a spot in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame, with his design of the Voyager, the skinnywinged, ungainly looking “flying fuel tank” of an airplane that flew around the globe without stopping for gas.

Skunking the Competition

Plane Talk

Voyager was piloted by the team of Jeana Yeager and Dick Rutan, the designer’s brash and charismatic brother. Not long after Voyage/$ around-the-world flight, I happened one day to be flying into Ernest A. Love Field in Prescott, Arizona, at the same time as Dick Rutan. Throwing radio etiquette to the wind just as his brother ignores the conventions of plane design, Dick Rutan announced his presence on the radio to those of us who were also approaching Prescott. Rather than resort to the time-honored tradition of announcing his presence by referring to his airplane’s registration number, as pilots have been doing since airplanes first got radios, the Voyager pilot keyed his mike and announced to the handful of us on the control tower frequency, "This is Dick Rutan, inbound for landing!"

. – . ■ ——————————- —і——— і———————————————————————— і————-

In December 1986, Voyager lifted off from Mojave, California, in an attempt to do what no one considered remotely possible: fly some 25,000 miles, the circumference of the globe, on a single tank of gas. But what a tank it was! Rutan created an airplane so light and so strong that it was capable of carrying 10 times its own weight in fuel, crew, and cargo. Pilots Jeana Yeager (no relation to Chuck) and Dick Rutan, Burt’s brother, kept cargo to a minimum in their cramped crew quarters so that fuel would make up most of the remaining weight.

Skunking the Competition

Designed by Burt Rutan and piloted by Jeana Yeager and
Dick Rutan, the Voyager flew around the world in nine
days on a single tank of gas.


The flight was snake-bit from the outset. One of Voyager’s wings scraped the runway on takeoff, badly damaging a wingtip and causing a winglet to fall off. Worse, an autopilot, which Burt Rutan had installed in order to tame the wild oscillations of the inherently jittery airplane, failed early in the flight, making controlling the airplane difficult and tiring for the two pilots. But, fortunately, these problems didn’t endanger the flight.

After nine days, Voyager touched down again in Mojave, having doubled the previous record for the longest nonstop flight without refueling, logging 28,000 miles.

Подпись: On Course As I watched the Voyager flight, I was unnerved by the slender wings' tendency to flap wildly in turbulence. When the air was bumpy, those 110-foot-long wings flapped so hard I was convinced they would snap off. But Burt Rutan knows how to build strength into his airplanes, as well as light weight, and the airplane held together for nine days.
Подпись: By the Book High speeds are often measured in units called Mach numbers, in honor of Austrian physicist Ernst Mach. Pilots also refer to one Mach as the speed of sound, because a plane flying at Mach 1 is flying as fast as sound travels through the atmosphere. Mach I is about 660 miles per hour, though the speed of sound varies with temperature.

Rutan is still turning out some remarkable designs, including the Boomerang, which defies the “rules” of design symmetry by creating a lopsided airplane with two fuselages and two engines, and seemingly only half a horizontal stabilizer. Unorthodox as it is, it’s one of the most strikingly beautiful airplane designs I’ve ever seen, something like an airborne version of the Guggenheim museum.

Jetting into the Future

Designers like MacCready and Rutan continue to draw the future of aviation on their drafting tables, creating aircraft that fly faster, higher, and even to the edge of space.

NASA is hard at work developing a line of X-planes that will carry people and cargo to altitudes that we only dreamed of a few years ago.

At Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, designers and engineers are ready to launch a prototype of a hypersonic jet called Hyper-X. The Hyper-X is designed to fly at a speed of Mach 10, or 6,600 miles an hour, using an experimental “scramjet.”

A scramjet, for “supersonic combustion ramjet,” is a jet engine that has no moving parts. Air passes through the engine at supersonic speed, is mixed with fuel, and the mixture is then burned to create thrust. It’s expected that the scramjet engine will be able to push future aircraft to speeds of about two miles per
second, or more than 7,000 miles per hour, as compared to 500 m. p.h. that is typical for passenger jets.

Whether they are scramjets or conventional jet engines, called “turbofans” in their most common form, jet engines compress air using a series of fast – spinning fanlike rotors contained inside a shroud that keeps the air from escaping once it starts to move through the engine. Once the air is compressed, fuel, usually kerosene, is sprayed into the dense air in a precise ratio.

The fuel – air mixture moves into a combustion chamber, where spark plug – like igniters cause the volatile mixture to explode. The heat and outward pressure of the explosion pushes on all sides of the combustion chamber, which is simply a cylinder with an exhaust opening at one end.

The pressure of the burning fuel-air mixture exerts a powerful force on every surface inside the combustion chamber including the front of the chamber, where in obedience to Isaac Newton’s law of physics that says “every action produces an equal and opposite reaction,” the combustion chamber receives a forward impulse. Because the engine is part of the plane, the impulse created inside the combustion chamber delivers a forward jolt to the entire airplane.

Skunking the Competition

On Course

Sometime in 2000, a group of human-powered airplane junkies will tjy to break a distance record in the pedal-powered Raven, which is being designed and tested in Seattle, The 90-pound craft, whose 115-foot wingspan is wider than a 737’s, will fly from Vancouver to Seattle, skimming over the waves of Puget Sound at an altitude of 18 feet. The project has been underway for more than 10 years.

Once the volatile fuel-air mixture is ignited and delivers its thrust force, the spent exhaust gases rush out of the engine through the exhaust nozzle. But before the fuelair mixture leaves the engine, it races past another set of fanlike rotors, called “turbines,” set in the exhaust path. The force of the exhaust turns the turbines, which are connected via an axle to the compressors at the front of the engine, where the process began.

In other words, the force of the exhaust gas is harnessed to spin the compressor fans, creating a simple and self-perpetuating cycle that continues as long as the fuel and the ignition spark last.

Scramjets function in much the same way, except that the incredibly high speed of aircraft like the X-34 causes the air entering the engine to compress naturally. That means a scramjet has no need for compressor fans, not to mention the turbine fans to turn the compressor. The fuel system simply injects fuel into the compressed air, then ignites the mixture. In a scramjet operating at full speed, the airflow through the combustion chamber never drops below the Mach 1.

If NASA is successful at spinning off its technology into the private sector, we could one day be flying in airplanes that don’t make any flights of more than two hours in length. After all, a trip halfway around

Подпись: the globe—the longest you'd ever have to make-
Skunking the Competition
Skunking the Competition

In aircraft traveling at speeds of Mach 3 to Mach 10 or more, travel would be revolutionized. For one thing, it will become far more expensive as scramjets and their kin evolve to power progressively larger jetliners. What could result is a class division even more stark than the one that separates first-class passengers from those in coach class: Wealthy travelers will enjoy the luxury of hypersonic speeds while others will settle for more sluggish 600-m. p.h. flights.

On board a hypersonic passenger jet, comfort and amenities will be less critical on a flight that is likely to take only 60 to 90 minutes. Today, when flights can drag on for 10 hours or more, comfort and entertainment are paramount. The hypersonic jets of the future will be technologically advanced, probably equipped with wireless communications and data links that are unimaginable today, but will not need to address the creature comforts that travelers consider of the new millennium so important.

Подпись: NASA's experimental Hyper-X is designed for speeds as fast as 10 times the speed of sound. If the technology makes its way into civilian jetliners, the most distant points on earth could be less than two hours apart by air. (NASA)

But just as when airline travel gradually overtook rail travel during the 1950s and 1960s, hypersonic travel might spread to all classes of travelers as technology advances and fares drop. By 2030, virtually all travelers should be able to afford the price of a hypersonic flight across the country or around the world. At such speeds, many flights will be too brief for an airline meal—just one more advantage of the hypersonic age.

Burt Rutan

Just as Paul MacCready dominated the movement in aviation design toward ultra-light human-powered aircraft, another man pioneered the movement toward canard designs—the legendary Burt Rutan.

Rutan runs a sort of “Skunk Works” for futuristic airplane designs out of his complex in the California desert. The original Skunk Works was a secretive Lockheed Aircraft factory that hired the best engineers and most rebellious thinkers in order to turn out, in the ’50s and ’60s, some airplanes that are still ahead of many companies’ best efforts.

The Lockheed Skunk Works designed planes such as the U-2 spy plane, which flew so high it was thought to be impossible to bring down, until the Russians did just that in 1960, downing Francis Gary Powers. Later, the Skunk Works turned out another spy plane, the sleek SR-71 Blackbird, which flew so high and so fast that it would turn scalding hot from air friction. Its super-aerodynamic shape still sets the standard for what a fast plane should look like. The Skunk Works is still operating in the California desert town of Palmdale.

Burt Rutan

On Course

Rutan is able to defy many of the rules of conventional air­plane design because he doesn’t use conventional airplane mate­rials. In place of metal, he prefers high-tech composite iam – inates, which are created by lay­ering exotic fabrics one atop the other. These materials are strong and amazingly lightweight; and they can be formed to a designer’s specifications without regard for the structural limita- bons of metal.

Daedalus and Icarus Redux

A few years later, MacCready’s Gossamer Albatross flew the English Channel to win a £100,000 prize. And in 1988, a Greek pilot/athlete nearly duplicated the mythic flight of Daedalus and Icarus from Crete to Greece powered only by his own energy.

Kanellos Kanellopoulus flew 15 feet over the waves of the Aegean Sea for more than four hours, covering 115 kilometers. When he was within 10 yards of the beach, a gust of wind struck the tail, and the craft splashed down into the ocean waves, failing to reach its destination by a matter of seconds.

Daedalus and Icarus Redux

Plane Talk

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Some of the futuristic planes using the most cutting-edge materials and designs look strangely familiar. Just as the Wright brothers did in their early airplane designs, designers of next-generation airplanes are put­ting the horizontal tail up front, and moving the propeller to the rear of the plane in a “pusher" configuration. The Gossamer Condor even used piano wires to warp the wingtips to bank the wings, the precise design the Wright brothers used. The Gossamer Condor and the Wrights’ Flyer now hang side-by-side in the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum.

If you’re not convinced that human-powered aircraft represent an advance in design and construction, consider this statement by the designer of one human-powered plane:4 We have an airplane that can be picked up in one hand, flies on the power needed to run a lightbulb, and has the wingspan of a commercial aircraft.”

Daedalus and Icarus Redux

By the Book

Canards are wing surfaces that are positioned in the front of the airplane but serve the same stabilizing purpose as the tail surfaces of conventional designs. The word “canard" comes from the French for “duck."

The Future of Aviation

The Future of Aviation

Подпись: In This Chapter V Visionary Paul MacCready and human-powered flight ► Burt Rutan: changing the way airplane designers think V Hypersonic flight at 10 times the speed of sound >• The race to build larger, heavier jets capable of carrying more than 600 people >■ Icarus and the new technology

Of all the forms of transportation humans have devised, none have progressed as far and as fast as aviation. If we consider the Wright brothers’ flight in 1903 as the birth of modern aviation, it’s taken just under a century for airplanes to evolve from a curious spectacle to a force powerful enough to send craft into space.

Indeed, the space shuttle—in effect a highly specialized glider—is capable of space flight for days or weeks at a time. It acts as a sort of ultra-high-tech ferry, rocketing people and material up to an international space station—a space station that, within a few years, will feature living and working pods for seven researchers and scientists who will stay in space for up to six months at a time.

It’s nearly impossible to believe that the men and women who will soon spend parts of their lives skimming hundreds of miles above the earth can trace their legacy fewer than 10 decades back to the bishop’s boys, Wilbur and Orville, and their experiments on wind-blown Kill Devil Hill.

Human Wings

Flying has always been a very personal means of expression. Even the most mechanized and regimented of all aspects of aviation, military flying, allows its pilots to express themselves with a flourish of skill or a touch of grace.

For years, airplane designers have been working on human-powered craft to bring man closer to the ultimate dream of flying as naturally as the birds. Human- powered flight, which, as its name implies, uses no power source other than human muscle, appears to be a reversion rather than a step forward in the technology of flight. But when considered as the realization of the centuries-old dream of taking to the air as easily as birds, it represents possibly the most sublime evolution in aviation.

Because humans are poor sources of power, creating only about % horsepower at best, the goal of creating an airplane that can lift its own weight and that of its pilot was beyond most designers’ abilities—and then ultra-lightweight composite materials were created.

The Future of Aviation

At Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, pilot Glenn Tremml flew the humanpowered airplane Daedalus 88. (NASA)

Paul MacCready

One man, Paul MacCready, deserves credit for most of the advances in design and lightweight materials that have made human-powered flight possible. He also deserves credit for devising innovative ways to use old-fashioned material to bring out its hidden strength without adding weight.

The Future of Aviation

Plane Talk

As proof that a talented designer doesn’t have to shackle himself to any one pursuit, Paul MacCready’s portfolio includes the design of General Motors’ Impact automobile, which is solar powered. He also designed and flew the radio-controlled pterodactyl model that was featured in the IMAX film On the Wing.

For example, MacCready’s first successful human-powered plane, the Gossamer Condor, used only cardboard and balsa wood as structural material, and weighed only 70 pounds empty, but it was able to carry a pilot that weighed more than the plane did. The Gossamer Condor, whose 96-foot wingspan was wider than a DC-9 jetliner’s wings, was the first plane to maneuver around a mile-long figure-eight course powered only by human muscle.

The Future of Aviation

In a photograph reminiscent of the photo of the Wright brothers’ liftoff on December 17, 1903, Paul MacCready’s Gossamer Albatross lifts off for a flight in 1980. (NASA)