Theories of Lift, Cont’d


The actual velocity over the top of an airfoil is much faster than predicted….” For those who have not seen this with their own eyes, watch Dr. Alexander Lippisch and his smoke-particle wind-tunnel in ‘The Secrets of Flight,” available on YouTube. Fascinating!

Thanks for the article (“Theories Of Lift,” April 2020). It takes us a step beyond the stereotypes delivered during ground school.

William Gerhard – Lancaster, Penn.


My impression is that the need for defensive flying is actually growing. I wonder if this is the result of poor training or hubris on the part of experienced pilots. I say this based on what I see as increased instances of bad behavior in aviation.

At one non-towered airport nearby, a pilot called a straight-in approach immediately after I had announced a left downwind to the same runway. As I approached the point where I would normally turn base, I queried the other pilot about his position. He was within a mile, so I informed him he was within sight and I would extend my downwind and follow him in. He acknowledged the info and thanked me. He then proceeded to land short and slowly taxi the length of the runway, passing three taxiways (and a crossing runway) and paused at the last taxiway before exiting the 3503-foot-long runway. This was not a student pilot. The aircraft was a light sport belonging to the local flight school and piloted by an experienced pilot. We were in a 300-hp retractable.

At another nearby airport with a single runway, we were conducting practice approaches for IFR currency when a local commuter airline twin announced he was on the RNAV approach while we were outbound to the fix on the same approach 1000 feet below. The airline twin never appeared on either TIS or ADS-B.

At the same airport a few months later, we were again conducting practice approaches for the same reason (we=husband-and-wife pilots) when we encountered a different model twin from the same airline. The twin this time was apparently conducting familiarization flights in a newly acquired high-wing twin. The airline twin was making full-stop landings to the northeast. As there was little wind, we were conducting approaches in both directions and communicating our position to the twin. On one approach to the southwest runway, the twin queried whether we would be full-stop or low approach. We responded “low approach only” and were acknowledged. When we were on short final (and making all the appropriate radio calls), my wife (acting as safety pilot) observed the twin making either a low approach or a go-around (unannounced), took control and broke off our approach to the right.

In both these instances, the airline twins failed to make important radio calls. The closest my wife and I have come to an accident was at a tower-controlled airport where neither ATC nor an instructional light twin were communicating properly, This reminds me of once, many years ago, when I was on right base to a non-towered airport and another aircraft passed in front of me on a straight-in approach. Once inside the FBO, I asked the other (commercial) pilot why he did not make any calls. He told me he did not use the radio because it disturbed his (sightseeing flight) passengers!

I think we need better training!

Rae Willis – Falmouth, Mass.


In response to the June issue and the “Defensive Flying” letters, I wanted to add to your otherwise good response to the letter about “Any traffic in the area please advise.” This is one of the most annoying things I hear on CTAF every day at uncontrolled fields.

The purpose of radio communication at uncontrolled fields is to announce your location and intentions. To ask for any one else’s risks multiple responses all at once if there is more than one aircraft in the vicinity. That results in aircraft radios being stepped on, and then no one can hear where planes are in the pattern at all. It is bordering on unsafe to ask everyone to announce all at once. That is why the FAA advises against that specific communication.

Brian Turrisi, MD, CFII – Hilton Head, S.C.


Very good article (“Wake Turbulence”) in the February issue. I am just now getting around to catching up on my reading after being out of town for the winter, and having the lockdown delay my return home. 

I do wish to take issue with the statement that the takeoff weight of the Boeing 747 “can easily exceed one million pounds….” A check of the internet reveals that the largest and heaviest version of the 747, the 747-800, has a max takeoff gross weight of 987,000 pounds. While pretty darn close, it definitely does not “exceed one million pounds.”

Bob Hartmaier – Monroe Township, N.J.

We based that statement on a long-ago conversation with the first officer of a 747-400, who told us MGTOW for the flight was 950,000 pounds. We figured the thing had gained some weight since then (like we have). We were wrong, and we’ll look it up next time. Thanks!


I take exception to your admonishment to stay home (“Is This Trip Necessary?” May 2020). I am based in the SF Bay Area and have been sheltering in place since March 10, rarely leaving my house, except to get groceries, and once per week to take one of my two bug smashers, a Debonair and an Archer, up. As you note, I am hurting no one and not placing anyone at risk. I own both planes and fly by myself, unless my wife wants to accompany me. We make it a point to talk with NorCal Tracon, who are frankly bored out of their minds with almost no traffic in the air and getting as rusty as many pilots. My principal reasons for flying are 1) to keep proficient; 2) to keep the planes in repair; and 3) to support our local FBO, whose business is dying and maybe in a small way, to try to help keep the economy alive, even if on life support. I encourage other pilots to do the same.

Ronald Hamburger – Via email


With all due respect, I challenge Mr. Burnside’s editorial in the May 2020 issue advising “to just stay home and out of the cockpit” during the pandemic. Since the pandemic struck, I have flown a PPE relief mission, completed a BFR, transported dogs for Pilots N Paws, and relieved personal quarantine stress via many takeoffs and landings. Burnside asserts, “There’s nothing to be gained by asserting your privilege to fly in these times.” Well, there is. Currency matters. And with potential relief missions and other charitable flights abounding, it behooves pilots to fly and stay sharp. It also helps stimulate air traffic controllers to have airplanes to manage. Abandoning our hard-earned ability to fly surrenders its potential to help. Pilots need to look to the skies for hope and aspiration. We didn’t come this far to be grounded. 

Vernon Squires – Via email


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