Today’s Illustration: Test Pilots

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“Why break your Aeroplane yourself . . . when we can do it for you?” — W. Parke

On This Day:  September 1929 — Lt. Jimmy Doolittle flew a trainer place over “Billy” Mitchell Field on Long Island, NY, to become the first to fly solely on instruments.

General “Jimmy” Doolittle is most remembered for his daring bombing raid over Tokyo just four months after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, but Doolittle’s most significant contribution to aviation happened many years earlier.

In 1922, he became the first pilot to fly cross country in less than twenty-four hours. He’d planned to fly by the light of the moon, but bad storms kept him in total darkness for several very dangerous hours. Luckily he had a turn and bank indicator installed on his plane. “Although I had been flying almost five years ‘by the seat of my pants’ and considered that I had achieved some skill at it, this particular flight made me a firm believer in proper instrumentation for bad-weather flying.” Flying with instruments was new and rare at the time, but without the indicator he might have been forced to “bail out” or just “luck it through,” as other pilots were forced to do.

There had to be a better way. “Progress was being made in the design of aircraft flight and navigation instruments and radio communication. If these sciences could be merged, I thought flying in weather could be mastered,” he said. The right mix of instruments could give him the direction he needed in the dark. It took several years, but he figured out a combination of radio and gyroscopes could let him fly safely regardless of visibility. And he proved it in 1929 by flying a plane with a totally blacked-out cockpit. — cited in “Your Best Year Ever” – pg 213


Facts & Information:

Test Pilot:

“A test pilot is an aircraft pilot with additional training to fly and evaluate experimental, newly produced and modified aircraft with specific maneuvers known as flight test techniques.

In the 1950s, test pilots were being killed at the rate of about one a week,[ but the risks have shrunk to a fraction of that due to the maturation of aircraft technology, better ground-testing, and simulation of aircraft performance, fly-by-wire technology and lately, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to test experimental aircraft features. Still, piloting experimental aircraft remains more dangerous than most other types of flying.” — wikipedia

“Merriam-Webster — Definition of test pilot : a pilot who specializes in putting new or experimental airplanes through maneuvers designed to test them (as for strength) by producing strains in excess of normal”

Advertisement in “Flight” magazine in May 1911, by Winfred Parke, a professional test pilot”Why break your Aeroplane yourself . . . when we can do it for you?”  Parke became the first pilot to perform a spin intentionally and recover from it and wrote the first handbook for test pilots.  Parke was killed in 1912 during an attempted stall test.

1912 — Jules Vedrines became the first test pilot to fly faster than 100 mph.  Vedrines died in a plane crash in 1919.

1929 — Test pilot Lieutenant Jimmy Doolittle covered his cockpit with a tinted hood that blocked all visibility to be the first person to purposefully fly by instruments alone. — Aviation Milestone books google — April 1985 — Popular Mechanics page 78

W. Parke, August 25, 1912, after a test flight — “A century ago, the spin was a deeply mysterious and deadly phenomenon that struck without warning and had no known cure. British pilots called it a “spiral dive,” not a spin; after that August morning, they would know it by another name: “Parke’s Dive.”. . . . Parke’s logbook, he concluded his entry for August 25 with “ghastly experience.” . . .  [Three days later the story was written up in Flight magazine] The Flight article helped turn the incident into an aviation milestone: the first well-documented case of a pilot successfully correcting and surviving a spin.   — spin control

Chuck Yeager is one of American’s most well-known test pilots.

“Yeager became a test pilot of many types of aircraft, including experimental rocket-powered aircraft. As the first human to officially break the sound barrier, on October 14, 1947, he flew the experimental Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 45,000 ft (13,700 m), for which he won both the Collier and Mackay trophies in 1948. He then went on to break several other speed and altitude records.”

Chuck Yeager: Chapter “Always The Unknown” — “I never knew when I might be taking my last ride. . . . I knew better than to think that any test flight was routine.” — pg.1

“You’re whipping through a desert canyon at three hundred miles an hour, your belly just barely scraping the rocks and sagebrush, you hand on the throttle of a P-39 fighter.  It’s a crystal -clear morning on the desert of western Nevada, and the joy of flying — the sense of speed and exhilaration twenty feet above the deck — makes you so ____ happy that you want to shout for joy . . . . You feel so lucky, so blessed to be a fighter pilot.  Nearly one hundred of us are testing our skill and courage by leaving prop makes on the dirt roads . . . .  we practice for strafing runs, the most dangerous missions that will eventually kill many of us.” — pg 15 Yeager

Key Illustrative Thoughts:

• I never knew if it was my last ride.
• the joy of flying
• maneuvers are designed to test it
• blessed to be a fighter pilot
• the first disciples knew that living out their faith “will kill many of us.”
• strains the plane and pilot “in excess of normal”
• paving the way for others who will fly
• pushing the limits to see what the limits are
• those who have run before us
• cloud of witnesses
• Jonathan and his armor bearer
• takes a sense of adventure / some have no sense of adventure
• a test flight can become an aviation milestone
• test pilots: moms and dads
• pastors / counselors have talked to a lot of “test pilots” who crashed
• make sure you are qualified as a test pilot before you . . . .
• Satan wants all of us to think we can do that without the consequences




Other Information & Links:

From Wikipedia:

“A test pilot must be able to:

  • Understand a test plan;
  • Stick to a test plan, flying a plane in a highly specific way;
  • Carefully document the results of each test;
  • Have an excellent feel for the aircraft, and sense exactly how it is behaving oddly if it is doing so;
  • Solve problems quickly if anything goes wrong with the aircraft during a test;
  • Cope with many different things going wrong at once.
  • Effectively communicate flight test observations to engineers and relate engineering results to the pilot community, thus bridging the gap between those who design and build aircraft with those who employ the aircraft to accomplish a mission.”

Spin Control:

“A century ago, the spin was a deeply mysterious and deadly phenomenon that struck without warning and had no known cure.

The skies above Stonehenge were bright and breezy on the morning of August 25, 1912. Some 600 feet over Salisbury Plain, Lieutenant Wilfred Parke had nearly completed a three-hour endurance test in a primitive wood and wire-braced biplane. The flight was part of Britain’s first military aviation trials, held by the newly formed Royal Flying Corps at Larkhill’s grass airfield.” —
— April 1985 — Popular Mechanics

Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieve – pg 213
by Michael Hyatt
Book: “Yeager: An Autobiography” — August 1, 1986 ( A Great Read!)

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