Tuesday, January 16, 2024

What's Up: LeRoy Cook

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Most little airplanes stayed snugged down in their beds over the past weekend, waiting for warmer weather to return before stirring from their nest. Plane owners generally don’t want to go through the pain of dragging out, pre-warming and preparing for flight when the wind chill is 20 below. Once running, aircraft perform well in the cold. I made a run to Clinton on the last semi-warm day before the Big Freeze and my old EZ climbed and cruised better than new, even with barometric pressure a half-inch below standard.


The week’s sparse traffic included a Cessna Skyhawk, a Piper Cherokee and an itinerant Army Guard Black Hawk chopper. Local pilots out and about were Roy Conley in his Grumman Tr2, Les Gorden with his Beech Bonanza and meself with a student in a 150.


One gets a unique perspective on local weather flying cross-country. Butler’s runway accumulated no snow from the first storm, early last week, but when I got to Clinton the pavement had been plowed and the landscape was white. On the way back, I could see what appeared to be a dark cloud shadow on the ground ahead. Nope, it turned to be bare dirt, starting around Ballard; everything east of there was white. The snowfall had mainly followed MO7 highway to the southeast.


If it wasn’t so serious, the recent hoo-raw surrounding the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 shedding a door panel inflight would be almost comical. Everybody is suddenly an expert, seizing the opportunity to pursue their agenda, be it beating down ol’ Boeing, disparaging the FAA, suing the airline and planemaker for non-injury, or wanting the guvinment to fix it. What we do know is that we got lucky this time, and everyone involved needs to shape up so it never recurs.


A sudden loss of pressurization at 16,000 feet with a door departing is noisy and cold, but hardly life threatening; our own SkyDive KC routinely dumped skydivers at 15,000 feet and as long as one gets down promptly there’s no threat. The faulty plug panel let go because the pressure build-up grew too strong as the Boeing climbed; it wasn’t likely to have lasted until getting up to a more hazardous altitude. You better believe those previous warning light indications won’t be ignored again.


Our question of the week was what the “V” stands for in airplane limitation V-speeds, like Vs for stall or Vne for never-exceed. It’s engineering shorthand for “Velocity”, denoting the airspeed indication. For next week, name three commercial jet airplanes with three engines. You can send your answers to [email protected].

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