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Trivia Testers

True or false: a blind person has successfully piloted an aircraft (an airplane) through takeoff, cruise flight, and landing.

Flying Blind (and Flying Safe?)
True or false: a blind person has successfully piloted an aircraft (an airplane) through takeoff, cruise flight, and landing.

After you, my dear Alphonse!
You're taxiing your airplane at an airport in Great Britain. The taxiway, like all other taxiways nearly everywhere, has a yellow stripe down the middle, and that's just where you are. Your dilemma arises when you realize that there is another airplane headed toward you moving in the opposite direction, several hundred yards ahead. The taxiway is wide enough to accommodate both airplanes, but of course, that yellow line isn't. Now you begin to wonder...what are you supposed to do? You remember that in the UK, one drives on the left, but you also know that regardless of that, airplanes are expected to taxi down the center line of a taxiway, in whatever country that may be. (The same is true for runways, obviously.) Back home, you reason, where you drive an automobile on the right, but where you've always passed slower vehicles on the left, you begin to wonder whether or not the other pilot will expect you to pass to his right, or to his left. You realize this may be silly...or is it? After all, in the UK, where they drive on the left, they certainly don't taxi on the left! Isn't passing to the right of opposing traffic a standard procedure? So, deary me, what would you do?!

  1. Even in ICAO countries where automobiles drive on the left, such as Great Britain, such things are governed by ICAO rules of the "road." British pilots operate on taxiways exactly the same way we do. You would each pass to the right.
  2. Believe it or not, there are no fixed rules covering this situation. Turn towards whichever side offers the most room.
  3. In ICAO member countries where driving is on the left, passing is also on the left: left rudder!
  4. Each of you would stop, queue up along with the other airplanes waiting in line to pass, and work this out in a civilized fashion.

Damnation Alley, or Chicken Little?
True or false: Global warming will inevitably cause more severe weather phenomena, and on a global scale.

The Answers...

Flying Blind (and Flying Safe?)
Answer: Blind people learn to do amazing things. Just the idea of being able to rapidly read little embossed bumps on a page with one's fingertips is truly amazing. It is a known fact that the remaining senses become keener, in compensation. Miles Hilton-Barber, 54, is the Project Manager for the Royal National Institute for the Blind. For him, flying blind has literal and not just figurative meaning. He became the first blind person to fly across the English Channel (in a microlight aircraft) on August 24, 2003. Hilton-Barber was among about 80 pilots to take off from Headcorn Airfield, Kent, in possibly the largest peacetime aerial Channel crossing. He did fly with a sighted pilot for safety (and not too surprisingly, legal) reasons.

To paraphrase the reaction of one of our iPilot readers in California (who actually is blind), she said (wisely, I think) that flying blind is okay when it's done with PAR and with a controller, but. . .landing? She thought there might be an issue there, because of the need for depth perception and distance calculation. (As she pointed out to me, even sighted pilots hit each other.) Of course, wisely, as noted, Miles did fly with a sighted pilot, so we can't know exactly how much of the landing was "his". That said, Miles is still quite motivated. (And why not? He's a motivational speaker!) In April of 1999, Miles completed the "Toughest Foot-Race in the World", the Marathon Des Sables, a 150 mile ultra-marathon through the 120 degree heat of the Sahara Desert. In 2001, he climbed to a height of 17,500 feet in the Himalayas. He then successfully conquered Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, at 19,340 feet. He was also the first blind person to manhaul a sledge 400 kilometres across Antarctica, has done white water rafting in Zambesi, tandem cycling marathons, SCUBA diving, and among other things, hot-air ballooning.

Another of his goals in the not too distant future is to fly the 12,600 miles to Sydney, Australia, in the same aircraft. It's his way of honoring 100 years of powered flight and raising money for Royal National Institute of the Blind. "Apart from it being a great adventure for me, fulfilling one of my childhood dreams, it's also hopefully helping a lot of other people in Britain to have a better quality of life," he told BBC news. All that blissful and altruistic warm fuzzy stuff aside however, it is absolutely and forever inherently impossible for even a person blind since birth to overcome the physical limitations of human balance and proprioception of the semicircular canals in the inner ear. This brave soul, bless his heart, couldn't have done it alone. The answer is: false.

After you, my dear Alphonse!
Answer: It's A.

Damnation Alley, or Chicken Little?
Answer: One argument goes that evidence supporting this has already been established by the World Meteorological Organization, as well as leading climatologists, worldwide. Some would assert that it is an undeniable fact that worldwide weather has indeed gone haywire, and that this is directly related to the planet's warming temperatures. Many people will insist that their own regions have had nothing but extreme, record-breaking, never-before-seen weather for the past several years. All over the world, from southern Argentina to Japan to sub-Saharan Africa, it seems that our climate is changing, right before our eyes. Some further insist that the cause is our use of fossil fuels, and that only a rapid switch to clean energy, made possible by the involvement of enough concerned citizens, will save us from the more severe impacts that scientists believe are fast approaching. So, what's the deal? Are 120 degree summers in the offing for Pennsylvania? Will our grandchildren see F8 near-supersonic tornadoes in the midwest? Will Atlanta be a coastal city by 2100 AD?

True, there is a problem. Most climatologists do agree that we are experiencing global warming. What they don't agree on is the severity and the consequences of this warming. Record heat did occur in France (and all of western Europe) during the summer of 2003, and we in the US did have a lot of tornadoes in May. However, records get broken every year. Extreme weather is actually "normal" in that it occurs more frequently than you'd expect. That's a problem: the general public expects weather to behave nicely, and it gets anxious when it doesn't. Statisticians expect data to have normal distributions and thus expect departures from the mean of two standard deviations or more only about 5% of the time. But the catch is that weather is not normally distributed such that extremes of two, three, and four standard deviations occur more frequently than 5%! This gives the public the impression the weather is going bananas when it is just behaving properly for a data set with a non-normal distribution.

This also obscures the real fact that we are changing the way the atmosphere behaves. Meteorologists are still not sure which extreme events would have occurred anyway in the absence of global warming. Furthermore, global warming leads to cold events in some places. Some conveniently forget to mention the cold, snowy winter in the eastern United States...which, incidentally, was also related to global warming through a strengthened jet stream. But beware of the Lorax! Screamers with agendas rarely want people to examine all the data in a rational way to come to scientific conclusions. As best as we can know at this point, the swamis say: false.

Don't take my one-sided word for it, though. See http://www.john-daly.com/, or a pretty good and rational site from EPA. Another site is the Environmental News Network which has a big section on global warming

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