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Trivia Testers

True or false: When the outside temperature is low, closing the cowl flaps prior to, during, or just engine start (and keeping them closed prior to takeoff) is a smart way to help keep some extra heat in the engine compartment to help warm up the engine. (But you must remember to open them prior to takeoff!)

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
The longest continuous flight ever made was

  1. two hours and 13 minutes shy of 20 straight days
  2. nine days, four minutes in the Voyager aircraft's world-circling non-stop (and non-refueled) flight between December 14 and December 23, 1987
  3. an unbelievable 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes, and five seconds, in a Cessna 172, entirely in the vicinity of McCarran Airfield in Las Vegas, Nevada, between December 4, 1958 and February 7, 1959
  4. You're not going to believe this one. In 1976, John Ewing and Blair Alberson made a non-stop flight lasting eleven months, 29 days, 23 hours, and (the records are hazy on this part) about 55 minutes, also in a Cessna 172 (highly modified to allow in-flight refueling by another C172). They didn't quite make a full year because of an engine failure. (They also had an STC to allow in-flight oil changes, as well as meal delivery and, um, comfort facilities.)

Drafty
True or false: When the outside temperature is low, closing the cowl flaps prior to, during, or just engine start (and keeping them closed prior to takeoff) is a smart way to help keep some extra heat in the engine compartment to help warm up the engine. (But you must remember to open them prior to takeoff!)

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff?
True or false: Pilots deal better with minor in-flight problems than they do with more critical malfunctions.

The Answers...

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
Answer: Choice (D) was pure baloney. But choice (C) wasn't. Can you imagine spending sixty-four straight days in continual flight-that's more than two months, folks-inside a 172? (Think of how much time you'd build, though!) The pilots were John Cook and Robert Timm. Note that if the question had asked about the longest non-refueled airplane flight, of course the answer would be choice (B), the famous Voyager (which incidentally had an empty weight of about 1021 Kg, less than one-fourth of its gross weight, with fuel, of 4397 Kg). If you considered any category of non-refueled aircraft flight, it was choice (A), which was the first around-the-world balloon flight: that of the Breitling Orbiter 3 between March 3 and March 21, 1999. John Cook and Robert Timm incidentally flew the equivalent of six times around the world during their flight. Their approach to refueling was fairly simple; while flying just above the ground, a fuel truck followed the plane closely as fuel was pumped aboard. The pilots lifted baskets of food into the plane by rope. As for the other domestic accoutrements, let's just say they were utilitarian.

Drafty
Answer: Nope; that is a negative. Unless your POH advises to the contrary, you should always keep the cowl flaps open while on the ground (even when the air is freezing cold). Although closing the cowl flaps will speed up engine warming, it could also contribute to uneven engine cooling, which would create other problems.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff?
Answer: Actually, they don't. You can read a paper on that very thing in the October 1995 issue of the Flight Safety Digest, published by the Flight Safety Foundation (not AOPA's Air Safety Foundation, but actually a separate independent, nonprofit, international organization, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia). In this study, Captain Robert L. Sumwalt and Captain Alan W. Watson of the Battelle Aviation Safety Reporting System analyzed different aircraft malfunctions and how effectively their flight crews handled them. In their report, "ASRS Incident Data Reveal Details of Flight-crew Performance During Aircraft Malfunctions," their findings suggested that responses to less serious malfunctions are associated with more "error-chain" symptoms and adverse consequences. This is because in dealing with serious malfunctions, pilots are usually trained so that their responses become reactive and preconditioned (thus avoiding the "error chain" syndrome). Minor problems often involve more reflective responses (plus, they are not rehearsed as much in training) and can result in a distracting element, even to the point where situational awareness is compromised or possibly lost, and the frequency of errors was several (about five) times greater. The answer is: "false".

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