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Trivia Testers

The first airplane to take off on wheels was...

Got Wheels?
The first airplane to take off on wheels was

  1. the White Wing, Glenn Curtiss, 1908
  2. The Bleriot XI, Louis Bleriot, 1909
  3. Wright Flyer, modified by Lt. Benjamin D. Foulois, 1909
  4. Wright Flyer, Model B, 1910

Answer: A. Glenn Curtiss also held the first US pilot's license, and built the world's first practical seaplane (which did not have wheels) as well as the first amphibious airplane (that did have wheels, which also retracted), among many other firsts in aviation and other fields as well. White Wing, also known as Drome #2, had motorcycle wheels and tires, as well as a steerable nose wheel (and ailerons)! He made his first flight in this aircraft on his 30th birthday: May 21, 1908. He is credited with over 500 inventions, but he didn't patent a great number of them, preferring to share knowledge and advance the science of flight. He is also credited with the first use of ailerons, although this idea may have come from Alexander Graham Bell, or another individual with whom Curtiss worked in Bell's Aerial Experiment Association beginning in October 1907. (Actually, the very earliest credit goes to one M.P.W. Boulton, a British inventor who patented them in 1868, and their first use was probably by the French aviation pioneer Robert Esnault-Pelterie, in 1904.) Curtiss' contributions to aviation included tricycle landing gear, enclosed cockpits, the hand grip throttle (originally for motorcycles), and many other new ideas. Most surprising is a quote from Orville Wright, in a reply to the publisher of Scientific American, that pneumatic wheels did not seem to belong on an airplane: "Personally, I think the flying machines of the future will start from tracks, or from [a] special apparatus."

The World's Most Southerly Runway
The world's most southerly runway is located in

  1. Christchurch, New Zealand (NZCH)
  2. Antarctica (NZSP)
  3. Capetown, South Africa (FACT)
  4. Guardiamarina Zanartu, Chile (SCGZ)
  5. Punta Arenas, Chile (SCCI)

Answer: B. The southernmost paved runway in the Americas, as well as the entire world, is Guardiamarina Zanartu, or in ICAO-speak, SCGZ. It's 4700 feet long, and located in the town of Puerto Williams, the capital of the Chilean Antarctic Territory, on the south side of the Beagle Channel, in Navarino Island (Isla Navarino). It is also considered the southernmost port of the world, with a naval base and a main commercial center in the area. Although it has a small population of only two or three thousand people, it has a hostel, an airport, communication systems, a museum, and a yacht Club. Just to the north on the other side of the Beagle Channel lies Ushuaia (SAWO), the capital of the Province of Tierra del Fuego, in the Argentine Republic (still more than a bit further south than Christchurch, New Zealand). The latitude is about 55 degrees South (versus that of Christchurch, which is about 43.5 degrees S or Capetown, South Africa at about 34 S). Although Guardiamarina Zanartu has Ushuaia beat for the title of "southernmost paved airport" by just a few miles, Ushuaia is significantly larger and is the usual jumping-off point for flights to Antarctica. The Punta Arenas airport is the world's most southerly commercial airport (at about 53 degees South). There is a runway in Antarctica--actually, there are about 40+ landing facilities at different locations operated by over a dozen governments, with runways that are either gravel, sea ice, glacier ice, or compacted snow (and no paved runways).

Antarctica is the world's highest and driest continent (and technically, the world's largest desert). Near the biggest manned station, McMurdo, which is at about 78 degrees S, there are three airfields and one helipad. Originally there was one ICAO identifier for McMurdo Station: NZCM, which stood for Williams Field at McMurdo. (Because all intercontinental flights come from New Zealand, they were assigned an "NZ" ID.) They recently had new identifiers registered with NOAA for reporting weather observations. NZIR is for the "Ice Runway" which is close to McMurdo, is built on annual sea ice, and is used at the start of the season; they can land anything from Twin Otters to C-5's on it. After the ice starts to melt, operations are moved to Williams Field (NZWD), on the Ross Ice Shelf about eight miles from McMurdo; operations there are limited to aircraft equipped with skis (Twin Otters and LC-130's). The third runway is the Pegasus runway (NZPG), another blue ice runway which is used at the end of the season, and which is located about 12 miles from McMurdo and supports the "heavies", or wheeled aircraft. The helipad is located right at McMurdo Station. (The runways on ice at McMurdo are the only ones for wheeled aircraft that are operated by the U.S in Antarctica.) The very most southerly airport in the world is at the Jack F. Paulus Skiway at the Amundsen-Scott Base, at 89° 59' 59.99" South (and an elevation of 9300 feet) with an identifier of NZSP. You can sometimes find data from these stations on the internet, such as our own weather site. (In case you are wondering, that one one-hundredth of one second of latitude away from exactly 90°S amounts to all of about one foot. This is puzzling since the wandering of the poles due to nutation alone, also known as the "Chandler wobble", exceeds that by at least an order of magnitude...)

To the right is a picture of the Ice Runway at McMurdo, kindly sent in by our most southerly iPilot reader, Bob Vehorn, who has been living in Antarctica for one month during each of the last several years, and who has been using our Practice Exams to study up for his pilot's license. McMurdo is the current headquarters of the United States Antarctic program, and is home to well over 1,000 people during the Antarctic summer. (This comprises about a fourth of the continent's entire summer population.) During their winter, that drops to about 200 people. (That's Bob in the picture, with NZIR behind him, and on the far right is the hut that Captain Scott built during the Discovery expidition of 1902.)

A Hot Idea
Who invented the first thermometer?

  1. Guglielmo Marconi
  2. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit
  3. Galileo Galilei
  4. Aristotle

Answer: C. Although there is some controversy regarding the answer to who invented the first thermometer, Galileo Galilei is generally credited with its invention. He built an early form of this instrument in about 1593. The word thermometer originates from the Greek word "therme" which means heat, and "meter", which implies a measurement over some kind of scale. It consisted of a glass flask, about the size of a small egg, with a neck about 16 inches long and as fine as a straw of wheat. He warmed the flask with his hands, then turned its mouth upside down into a vessel placed underneath, in which there was a little water. When he took his hands from the flask, the decreasing temperature of the inverted vessel resulted in the contraction of the air within it, which in turn changed the level of the liquid partly filling the vessel's long neck: the water began to rise, and mounted to somewhat over eight inches above the level of the water in the vessel. Galileo never published anything stating that he divided the thermometer into measurements of equal degrees, but in a letter dated 1638, another scientist, Benedetto Castelli, describes Galileo's experiment and implies that Galileo did indeed use a scale when examining "the degrees of heat and cold." However, in the same way that our altimeters do not account for temperature, his thermometer was inaccurate because of the reverse: it ignored the effect of atmospheric pressure (although air pressure was not known about at the time). At the start of the seventeenth century, there was no way to quantify heat, except perhaps in a very rough way as when a physician put his hand on a patient's forehead and diagnosed "fever heat." Another Italian inventor, Santorio Santorio, and Galileo's friend Gianfrancesco Sagredo (both in Venice) were the first inventors to put a numerical scale on the instrument (by marking reference temperatures with threads tied around the glass tube). Santorio published a reference to his thermometer in 1612 (which at the time was known as a thermoscope). It had thus become a full-fledged air thermometer. The first series of quantitative meteorological observations date from this period. In other parts of Europe the inventor Cornelis Drebbel and Robert Fludd developed similar instruments. Their nearly simultaneous (and probably independent) discoveries illustrate the seventeenth-century trend toward quantification of natural phenomena--an essential part of the "mathematization" of nature. The liquid-in-glass thermometer was developed in the 1630s, but an accepted standard of temperature remained elusive.

In the early eighteenth century, universal temperature scales based on several fiduciary points (e.g. a mixture of ice and brine, a mixture of ice and water, body temperature, the boiling point of water) were developed by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736), Anders Celsius (1701-1744), and René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur (1683-1757). Of these, the first two are still in use, and the system of Celsius (extended to become an absolute scale in the nineteenth century) has become the standard scientific temperature scale. Fahrenheit was the German physicist who invented the alcohol thermometer in 1709, and the mercury thermometer in 1714. (Mercury is a better choice because it does not freeze like water and contracts and expands on a smaller scale than does water because it is more dense.) In 1724, he introduced the temperature scale that bears his name: the Fahrenheit Scale. The Celsius scale, devised in 1742 by Swedish Astronomer Anders Celsius, has 100 degrees between the freezing point (0 C) and boiling point (100 C) of pure water at sea level pressure. (He was also responsible for building Sweden's Uppsala Observatory in 1741, and was its first Director.) The Fahrenheit scale is the English unit and the Celsius scale is the metric unit, used first by the scientific community. A simple formula can be used to convert from the English to the metric or vice-versa. C = 5/9 (F - 32) or F = 9/5 (C) + 32. The term "Celsius" was adopted in 1948 by an international conference on weights and measures. In 1848, the British physicist Sir William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, Lord Kelvin of Scotland (1824 - 1907), took the whole process one step further with his development of the Kelvin scale by proposing a system that used the degree Celsius but was keyed to absolute zero (- 273.15°C). The Kelvin scale represents the last word in thermal scales measuring the ultimate extremes of hot and cold. Among his other achievements was the 1852 discovery of the "Joule-Thomson Effect" of gases, his work on the first transatlantic telegraph cable (for which he was knighted), as well as his inventing of the mirror galvanometer used in cable signaling, the siphon recorder, the mechanical tide predictor, and an improved ship's compass. The absolute scale related to the Fahrenheit degree is known as the Rankine (R°) scale, named after the Scottish engineer and physicist William John Macquorn Rankine, who proposed it in 1859.

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