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Aviation News

Trivia Teaser - The Lure of the Straight And Narrow

Question: You experience an engine failure at a fairly charitable altitude (say 4500 feet) during a cross-country flight. There aren't any airports within gliding range, but you immediately see a perfectly straight clearing in the heavily wooded area over which you are flying (which fortunately, appears to be relatively flat) You notice that it continues off into the middle distance, at which point it abruptly changes direction by about 25 degrees and continues again in another long, straight line. Why might you not want to even think about landing there?
A) You're seeing a highway in the making. Unfortunately, you are also seeing terrain that has yet to be graded and cleared of what is probably some fairly large scale debris. Just because it's clear of trees doesn't mean that it is also free of bushes, gullies, or boulders. In fact, most narrow right-of-way clearings in heavily wooded areas are festooned with fairly large and potentially fatal obstacles.
B) It is most likely an unused or abandoned ski slope. (And as you might infer, it sure as heck won't be level.)
C) You aren't looking at a highway, or a highway-to-be. You're looking at a power line. Or rather, you will be, once you descend further.
Unlike gently curving superhighways, 'highways' for high-power transmission lines progress in a series of usually perfectly straight lines.
D) It could be the right of way for a natural gas transmission line.
Most portions are underground, but you wouldn't want to find out the hard way where the above ground sections are.

Answer: Check back next week.


Trivia Teaser - That little bend in the road, down thar

Question: Why is it that when you are flying over the Midwest, you'll see an endless rectangular array of roads neatly arranged in a grid, but every so often, one of the north-south roads will jog just a bit eastward or westward before resuming its northerly (or southerly) course?

A) In the mid-nineteenth century, many states established their own departments of land management, each of which began their surveying at different points. The techniques of surveying were not as accurate as they are now, and when one southerly section line didn't quite met up with another running northward, the two teams ignored the discrepancy, and joined along an East-West line.

B) because the earth isn't flat

C) This is in fact an illusion. The vast majority of rural intersections throughout the Great Plains do not, in fact, meet at right angles, nor at neat four-way corners. We see only a rough peripheral image of many squares at a distance and our brains 'arrange' and integrate this information into a more orderly image, which is easier to remember. It is the same sort of thing that makes a 'vector' graphic take up far less space than a raw 'bitmap'. Our brains work the same way. Such 'jogging intersection' exceptions that we may sometimes notice are actually more the rule.

D) It means that there was probably an obstruction at that point, such as a stand of trees or a lake, which was simply sidestepped when the road was first built, or possibly you are seeing a state boundary that does not fall on a township line.