Posted by: robertartemenko | February 2, 2010

HugeGOD in small birds

Last November a personal dream came true. I passed my oral test and checkride in a Piper Cherokee Warrior II single engine aircraft, to become a private pilot. My “Yoda” like designated pilot examiner (DPE) plumbed my knowledge of aeronautics, Warrior II systems, emergency procedures, FAA regulations, meteorology, flight planning/navigation, manuevers and aircraft performance. Each topic alone is a deep subject. Yet, the primary focus always returned to safety. (Think mother robin, reluctantly kicking young  robin out the nest. To stay in the nest is not to be a robin, to leave it is to defy gravity and do the unbelievable, “What, me fly?” – Alfred E. Robin)

My examiner emphasized one point in particular that every flyer must internalize or risk bent metal and personal harm. This truth is revealed in the intricacies defined in this chart, and a myriad of others like it.

A most crucial item to calculate before departure how long it will take to stop upon landing. Safe flight is all about managing energy. Converting forward motion to adequate lift to sustain flight, then dissipating it under control and stopping sans collisions.

To carry out a safe dissipation of energy upon arrival, you must calculate whether touchdown runway lengths are adequate. The good news is that with minimal passengers and baggage, long runways, temperatures around 60 Fahrenheit and barometers near 30 inches of Hg, there are few concerns. The challenge comes with multiple passengers or heavier baggage coupled with shorter runways. In these circumstances, you need to do the calculations to assure your safety, working your way through the “Landing Distance” chart that is unique to each aircraft.

Evaluating your “go/no-go” cases requires accounting for landing field (1) outside air temperature (2) air density (3) aircraft weight (4) wind direction/velocity (5) obstacle heights over which you will be landing (trees, hills, etc.) not to mention whether the runway is a paved, level or dry. While such “conditions” have a varied impact on performance, certain element dynamics have dramatic impacts. For example if your landing distance is 1500 feet without a 50 obstacle at the end of the runway, it’s 2200 feet with one – about a 50% increase. And if your landing distance with a ~10 mph headwind is 1100 feet, its 1900 feet with a ~10 mph tailwind –  a 70% increase. If you mix in rain, variable wind gusts and a slightly downward sloping runway, you have very critical challenges to manage.

What’s the point?

Please consider.

The robin above’s first solo … or geese flying overhead to a pond nearby … that sparrow alighting on the thin peg protruding from your bird feeder. What charts or reports did they consider before their departures? What thermometer, barometer, anemometer, altimeter, speedometer or GPS did they consult en route and before landing? They don’t read, talk, radio, I-M, Bing or Google, but they, as far as we can tell, perform efficiently and effectively in all aspects of their manuevers. In some grand and marvelous way these creatures’ neurological faculties and coordinated motor movements naturally DO what takes humans hundreds of hours of training, thousand of pounds of equipment, millions of dollars of infrastructure and continuous intercommunication with people and devices to DO, only not nearly as well.

And the robin, goose and sparrow activities mentioned above are mere simple fluttering. Have you ever seen a hawk dive from the sun and thread its way through a forest’s maze of branches fleeing pesky blackbirds or see an osprey carry a still flapping fish in its talons. Land in 30 feet !? 30 inches !? 3 inches!?  … none of these “planning” questions would seem to cross their wonderful little brains.

These God-created wonders are amazing references for how HugeGOD is. For me, this became especially poignant as I had to learn what it take for a human being to slog along and mimic their innate gifts.

Check these out as well.

Swarming starlings and diving falcon 


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