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Trivia Testers

Just as the greater relative proportion of one substance introduced into another can improve the effectiveness of a mixture or a solution in physical chemistry, the increasing numbers of a smaller population intermingled with another more predominant one can serve to further justify the agenda of the former (whether that be equal rights, or simply acceptance). When it comes to the pilot population then, at what point in time during the last 100 years has the relative number of pilots been the greatest, with respect to the population at large?

Strength In Numbers
Just as the greater relative proportion of one substance introduced into another can improve the effectiveness of a mixture or a solution in physical chemistry, the increasing numbers of a smaller population intermingled with another more predominant one can serve to further justify the agenda of the former (whether that be equal rights, or simply acceptance). When it comes to the pilot population then, at what point in time during the last 100 years has the relative number of pilots been the greatest, with respect to the population at large?

  1. just before World War II
  2. just after World War II
  3. just after the Vietnam war
  4. 1980

Answer: Based on historical data for the US civilian pilot population from AOPA, the peak in the total number of American pilots wasn't before or after WWII, or the Vietnam war, but a few years afterwards in the late 1970s (actually 1980, at over 827,000). That is a huge number compared to the present, especially since the US population in 1980 was only about four-fifths of what it is now. The US pilot population was about one third greater back then, which means that the pilot-to-groundling ratio has since dropped by about 40%. (Four fifths times three quarters equals exactly six tenths.) That was the year when the percentage of the general population who were pilots was greatest: not quite four tenths of one percent. Here are a couple of graphs to illustrate this. (The known total US population data points are only once every ten years, due to the census being done only once each decade, and AOPA's pilot population datum for 1950 is suspect, so I didn't use it. Also, due to changes in FAA procedures, and other record-keeping related glitches, some data points may be off somewhat, but it's the best we have.) So, bottom line, the correct answer is D.

The first rapid rise in the number of pilots was due primarily to the Civilian Pilot Training Program, which arose from verbiage in the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 and which was unveiled by President Roosevelt late that year. It started shortly after that, early in 1939. Uncle Sam paid for 72 hours of ground school and between 35 and 50 hours of flight instruction. Although the military was skeptical and even among the civilian population, support was divided along party lines, the invasion of Poland in September of that year made the program's value and importance quite clear, and the invasion of Pearl Harbor removed any further doubt. Once at war, the CPTP became the War Training Service, and unlike its predecessor, all graduates entered military service. (Perhaps a few years later, the reality of the workforce and family obligations accounts for the sudden drop-off.) There was a second upsurge throughout the 60s and this may be Vietnam era related (pilots exiting the military or using their GI benefits), or simply a demographic result of a healthy economy and increased discretionary income. Most likely it is simply the "second generation" phenomenon.

Figure 1

Figure 2
Raising Arizona?
How many states in the entire US have had the honor of a summertime temperature record of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or higher?
  1. just one: Arizona
  2. three: only Arizona, California, and New Mexico
  3. 10
  4. every single one

Answer: It's not global warming, but it's been hotter than most people realize. Fully 10 states have had the dubious honor. In alphabetical order, they are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota (yes, really), Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas. So the answer is: C. In fact, it might surprise you to learn that absolutely every state in the Union has had record temperatures of 100 degrees or more (even chilly Alaska and balmy Hawaii). Here is one compilation (although it may not be absolutely current)...see for yourself:

Figure 3

Icarus II: Falling With Style
True or False: Using wings no wider than a person is tall, it is possible for a human being of normal proportions to descend in free fall with a glide ratio that approaches that of some aircraft.

Answer: Almost true. Well, depending on what you expect by the term "approaching" and also "some aircraft". The answer might arguably be: true. The best (and only) example of that would be one Felix Baumgartner, Austrian athlete and somewhat notorious BASE jumper. He has a specially designed "wing suit" with a carbon fiber delta wing affixed to his back, which might evoke images of some cartoon superhero, with which he hopes later this year to glide across the English Channel. His expected glide ratio is 6:1. (This is about what some jet fighters have, actually.) The best glide speed is about 135 knots. Without dealing with any details on just how he might flare for a landing at that speed, he plans to begin his glide after exiting an aircraft (most likely a balloon) at a starting altitude of about 27,000 feet. After an initial free-fall straight down to pick up speed, he plans to then glide to the other side, deploying his parachute at about 1800 feet. (see www.felixbaumgartner.com.)

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