Flying level

I look at today’s comic and an old musician joke comes to mind: “How do you know if the stage is level? When the drummer drools out of both sides of the mouth equally.” Well, that doesn’t work in a cockpit, does it! It really is no surprise that so many aviation pioneers met a horrible fate because of unexpected clouds, because, without instruments, it must be absolutely terrifying to suddenly be blind and not even able to trust your own perception of “down” anymore. Still happens today too. I’m sure many of you who fly have some tale to tell in that regard.

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10 comments on “Flying level
  1. Charlie says:

    Some of us still remember the “Cat-and-duck method of IFR flight” that used to get faxed around. Though a quick google for “cat and duck ifr” still brings up a few copies 😉

  2. Awesome says:

    I remember that I didn’t have any problem with IFR training until my instructor blindfolded me, maneuvered us around inside a cloud for a while, then gave me the controls with a plane in an attitude I was unaware of. That was disconcerting.

  3. Rude African says:

    To judge by the even distribution of the junk, the aircraft is probably in level flight.

    However, it is inverted.

  4. reynard61 says:

    I recall reading somewhere that one airmail pilot (may or may not have been Charles Lindbergh) used to tie an old heavy key to the instrument panel coaming of his plane and used that as an ersatz artificial horizon/turn-and-bank indicator.

  5. v says:

    I don’t understand, no matter how well they’ve been tied to the seats by their belts they should still be able to feel which way they’re hanging…

  6. markm says:

    V: One trouble is that dizziness will also interfere with your ability to feel which way you’re hanging. The bigger trouble is that g-force inside the cabin only tells you which way the lift of the wings is pushing the aircraft, not which way that lift is actually pushing. You hope that 1g push straight down into your seat means you are in level flight with the lift just balancing gravity, but you could be in a bank and describing a descending helix. Or upside down and accelerating downwards at 64 feet/sec/sec. The force inside the cabin is exactly the same for those three situations.

    That key on a string trick would help with dizziness/disorientation, and if you watch it continually it might warn you that you’re starting to bank, but by the time you’re really in trouble it’s no better indication of the actual aircraft orientation than your own sense of the g-force.

  7. John says:

    I’m quite sure I saw a film once (maybe Indiana Jones) where our hero used a half empty bottle of whiskey as an attitude indicator.
    Lesson learned: have always a clear bottle half filled with some coulored fluid (and some duct tape) when flying.

  8. Alcalaino says:

    Hi John. I think that trick appeared in one episode of “Tales of the Gold Monkey”

  9. Awesome says:

    I think this video will accurately describe why you fly with a vacuum-driven attitude indicator and not a water-based or plumb-bob indicator.

  10. kkrummy says:

    The first time I flew into a cloud deck with my instructor I quickly became convinced the airplane (TR182RG) was leaning to one side. I kept the gyro horizon level but actually began to lean to one side while telling my flight instructor that the airplane “wasn’t flying right”. He told me to trust the gyros and cross check continuously. Soon flying on the gauges became second nature. When I got my PPL I had three hours of actual instrument cross country time and several more hours under the hood. I think that we could lessen the rate of accidents due to continued flight into instrument conditions if we upped the time students spend under the hood and actually expose them to real IFR conditions.

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