PTT, Dave Un­win

Pilot - - CONTENTS - Dave un­win Pi­lot’s Flight Test Edi­tor op­er­ates a Jodel D.9 from a farm strip and has logged stick-time on ev­ery­thing from ul­tra­lights to fast jets

Vin­tage air­lin­ers, old prob­lems in op­er­at­ing them prop­erly

It has not been a good year for vin­tage air­lin­ers. Over six tragic weeks, a Lock­heed 12 in Bel­gium, a Junkers Ju-52 in the Swiss Alps, a Dou­glas C-47 in Texas, a de Hav­il­land Rapide in Canada and a Con­vair CV-340 in South Africa all came to grief. Al­though it is un­likely that a com­mon thread links th­ese ac­ci­dents (all the in­ves­ti­ga­tions are on-go­ing, and if you’re look­ing for spec­u­la­tion you’ve bought the wrong mag­a­zine) but, un­sur­pris­ingly, th­ese in­ci­dents re-ig­nited the peren­nial de­bate re­gard­ing whether old air­craft should fly.

Of course they should! An aero­plane in a mu­seum is noth­ing more than an arte­fact, whereas an air­wor­thy air­craft in its nat­u­ral el­e­ment is a liv­ing, breath­ing thing. It may still be a ma­chine but it’s much more than the sum of its parts, and it has the power to in­spire. Never for­get that the pi­lots of to­mor­row (and there’s al­ready a huge short­age pre­dicted) can only come from the chil­dren of to­day. So, if we agree that old aero­planes must fly, the next log­i­cal ques­tion is “how should they be flown?”

I was think­ing about this the day af­ter Pete Koso­gorin and I had fer­ried the BAE Her­itage Flight’s Avro 19 from Farn­bor­ough to its Old War­den base. We had prac­ti­cally ev­ery­thing in our favourper­fect weather, a giant run­way, all-up weight well be­low max­i­mum and two ex­pe­ri­enced avi­a­tors in an air­craft de­signed to be flown ‘sin­gle pi­lot’, yet we still briefed the take­off fully. Not just speeds and power set­tings, but sys­tems as­pects, such as which en­gine drove the sin­gle hy­draulic pump, and which en­gine was the ‘crit­i­cal’ one.

To op­er­ate old air­craft safely you ob­vi­ously need skill, but also knowl­edge and wis­dom – and many skilled pi­lots have died be­cause they lacked ei­ther knowl­edge or wis­dom. The dif­fer­ence? Knowl­edge is know­ing that a tomato is a fruit, whereas wis­dom is know­ing not to use one in a fruit salad. With re­gard to op­er­at­ing an Avro 19, knowl­edge is be­ing aware that the only hy­draulic pump is on the port en­gine, while wis­dom is un­der­stand­ing that, should the port en­gine fail be­fore the un­der­car­riage is re­tracted and Vyse at­tained, land­ing straight ahead is the only op­tion­even if the other en­gine is work­ing well. This may seem counter-in­tu­itive to pi­lots who’ve only flown modern twin-jets (even if an en­gine fails while they’re still on the ground, if speed is past V1 they’re go­ing fly­ing) but in some­thing like an An­son, it’s the only way. If you get com­pla­cent, the sec­ond en­gine is only there to take you to the scene of the ac­ci­dent. In fact, com­pla­cency is an­other big killer, and many a 20,000hour air­line cap­tain or steely-eyed fighter pi­lot has been hum­bled−or worse−by a 65hp Cub, when they for­got that a Cub is still a small bear.

Vet­eran pi­lots of­ten look back at ‘the good old days’ when air­craft were sim­ple, but peo­ple fre­quently for­get that sim­ple de­vices are gen­er­ally harder to op­er­ate−or at least op­er­ate well. It is self-ev­i­dent that a GPS is a com­pli­cated de­vice that is sim­ple to use, whereas an ADF is a sim­ple de­vice that is com­pli­cated to use. For ex­am­ple, if you were fly­ing an early jet and wanted to know how far you were from an NDB, you’d put the ADF nee­dle on the wingtip, time (in sec­onds) how long it took for a bear­ing change of ten de­grees and then mul­ti­ply that by the Mach num­ber to give you the miles from the ra­dio bea­con. With a GPS, you just read dis­tance (down to a tenth of a mile) off the screen.

The same thing ap­plies to con­trols. A Piper Apache has four seats and ten power con­di­tion levers, whereas a Boe­ing 777 can have al­most 400 seats, and only two power con­di­tion levers! Even sailplanes aren’t ex­empt from this cu­ri­ous in­verse law of com­plex­ity and dif­fi­culty. Con­sider the Slingsby T.31 and its sportier de­scen­dant, the T.65. I’ve flown both, and while the 31 was de­signed to be soloed by youths af­ter two to three hours’ in­struc­tion, the 65 is a very dif­fer­ent beast. It can carry 88kg of wa­ter bal­last, has sev­en­teen dif­fer­ent flap po­si­tions and a re­tractable un­der­car­riage. Even the tail­wheel re­tracts! One sailplane sounds very sim­ple, the other quite com­pli­cated, yet if you put a high-time T.65 pi­lot in a T.31 it could quite pos­si­bly end in tears.

So, to re­turn to our orig­i­nal ques­tion of “how should his­toric air­craft be flown?” I be­lieve you need knowl­edge and wis­dom, skill, me­chan­i­cal em­pa­thyand the right at­ti­tude, for vin­tage air­craft must be flown with re­spect. Cur­rency can be dif­fi­cult, but it will al­ways be king. Fi­nally, avi­a­tors, en­thu­si­asts and the gen­eral pub­lic all need to un­der­stand one sim­ple yet ir­refutable point. The propo­si­tions that ‘his­toric ma­chines must fly’ but in a ‘no risk en­vi­ron­ment’, are mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive.

Vin­tage air­craft must be flown with re­spect

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