Posted by: harrisonjones | July 30, 2011

Are we there yet…

I was reading Joe Clark’s excellent blog this morning in which he discussed the art of cross country flying. It took me back to my previous life as a student pilot and my first cross country adventures. Preparing myself and  my Cessna 150 for a jaunt of 200 miles was a chore requiring all my new found skills. I called the flight service station and studied the weather reports they gave me in great detail and then filed a flight plan. With chart and plotter and computer (not a laptop, I’m talking about the circular slide rule) I carefully determined the true course, then converted to magnetic and applied wind corrections to find the heading I would need to fly. Next I determined the true airspeed and applied wind corrections again to find the ground speed to calculate time  between checkpoints. Next, I did the weight and balance math and finally went out to preflight the little Cessna. At that point, I could only wonder in amazement what would be required for an airline captain to fly coast to coast. 

In my next life, I found myself dressed in a costume with gold stripes on the sleeves and wings on the jacket, preparing to fly a leg that would take me half-way around the world in fourteen hours. I was handed a flight plan prepared by a dispatcher with all the calculations complete, a stack of weather briefings for half the globe,  with appropriate remarks highlighted so I didn’t have to read the details, and a weight and balance sheet with the percent of MAC and the stabilizer setting for takeoff. By the time I had my coffee and made my way to the airplane, one of the copilots had completed the walk around and we were ready to go. Climb to a thousand feet, engage the autopilot, push the nav button, and watch TV (actually, several of them mounted in the instrument panel) for the next fourteen hours. Oh my…there’s the runway at Tokyo right in the middle of my windshield; and wasn’t the arctic circle nice today?


You can decide who has the more daunting task, the student pilot in the Cessna or the airline captain. My friend Joe’s blog discussed the importance of the basics and not relying too heavily on the automation. It was always a great comfort to me that mounted among the TV screens and computer readouts; there were a few little round dials that operated directly from the pitot static system and a battery. If all else failed I had my little Cessna 150 instruments to fly with. Altimeter, airspeed, vertical speed, a magnetic compass and a battery operated attitude indicator. It’s easy to get lazy, but reality always lurks nearby. Has anybody seen Murphy…     


  1. Murphy lives at my house 🙂

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