How do you teach someone to land an airplane?

A twenty one year old is almost totally incapable of jumping into the cockpit of a T-6 Texan II and teaching himself to fly. He (or she) will almost certainly kill himself in the process.

Contrast this thought with the fact that Wilbur and Orville Wright taught themselves to fly. Furthermore, an experimental test pilot, having never flown an aircraft before, can take-off on the first-ever flight of an experimental aircraft for which no one has an idea on its handling and flying qualities and literally teach himself to fly it.

How do we resolve these ideas?

I think there are two points in the spectrum that contains ideas on learning, and an awareness of their existence will help us.  First, in the modern day, we have the internet–more specifically, countless books, videos and other resources on the internet–the autodidactic’s utopia–has created an environment in which anyone can learn anything for free. This isn’t a new approach to thinking about learning though. In 1909, then President of Harvard University commissioned the publication of 50 volumes, a shelf of books that could offer its reader:

…a good substitute for a liberal education in youth to anyone who would read them with devotion, even if he could spare but fifteen minutes a day for reading.1

On the other hand, we have traditional teaching–by this I mean something that looks like a student with his teacher–a mentor, a coach, etc. Why do we need teachers? Or more importantly…

Do we need teachers?

Mark Mondt said this about the early days of his technical career in flight test: “Everyone gladly answered my questions but much of the time I just did not know which questions to ask.”

I think this quote is the center of the bullseye of learning.  I think we can learn faster with a guide, and I think we can learn from the preserved knowledge of others. I also think that you can’t teach someone to land an airplane. You can show them what a good landing looks like, and then you ride along with them while they teach themselves to land.

Incidentally, I think being a test pilot is a great analogy for life.

I also think sharing our observations is important. Sometimes it will give that wondering mind an answer to a question they didn’t even know they had.

Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.

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You’ve just read observations, a monthly column that illustrates in my personal life and leadership the technical concepts found in ATOMs.

Failure isn’t final.

Bill Boeing’s first airplane failed (“a handmade, clumsy seaplane copied from a Martin seaplane” which flunked its Navy trials), and his company faced such difficulty during its first few years of operations that it entered the furniture business to keep itself aloft! Douglas Aircraft, in contrast, had superb initial success with its first airplane. Designed to be the first plane in history to make a coast-to-coast nonstop trip and to lift more load than its own weight, Douglas turned the design into a torpedo bomber which he sold in quantity to the Navy. 25 Unlike Boeing, Douglas never needed to enter the furniture business to keep the company alive. 26

Collins, Jim; Porras, Jerry I. (2011-08-30). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Harper Business Essentials) (p. 26). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.

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You’ve just read observations, a monthly column that illustrates in my personal life and leadership the technical concepts found in ATOMs.

With the host of tools available to the modern pilot, one can’t help but wonder what the best way is to manage the workload, to use the automation in a way that does not add unnecessary workload.  In some cases, it’s possible to use tools intended for autopilot use even when hand-flying.  Here’s one example, one opinion.

The Speed Bug

The use of the speed bug indicates to the entire crew what speed target the pilot intends to fly.  Anyone can look up at any time and see if the aircraft is “on speed”. With this speed bug reference anyone can detect and announce deviations–this would include the customer on a demo flight who isn’t familiar with nominal operations. This would also include the pilot not flying.

The FAA and much of the industry have adopted the term Pilot Monitoring (PM) to more accurately describe the role of an additional pilot. But in many sub-parts of the industry, the second crew member is not just a pilot monitoring. He (or she) is doing something else, and we are doing a disservice to ourselves and the profession and the industry if we fail to recognize this.  The flight test engineer and the weapon systems officer (or Wizzo or REO) are just a few examples. Law enforcement and other government missions probably abound with similar examples.

Understanding the role of additional crew members — really thinking about it — will go a long way to better crew resource management and risk mitigation.

In flight test, especially in the host of single pilot aircraft we now see entering development, the crew member in the right seat is a crew member actively engaged in doing other things necessary at that time, collecting data and overseeing test conduct.  For the right seat crew member, the speed bug helps to communicate things that otherwise would not be communicated, in a timely and efficient manner.  It would also show up “in the data” — because, as of yet, we have not determined how to collect data regarding pilot intention.

If we fail to use the speed bug, then we are missing an opportunity to leverage, like a seesaw, the tools we have at our disposal.

Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.

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You’ve just read observations, a monthly column that illustrates in my personal life and leadership the technical concepts found in ATOMs.

Feedback needed: Should I clean up the format? Should I hyperlink or just leave it as plain text? What else do you like or not like about the layout? Send a tweet to @FlightTestFact with your thoughts.

8/1/2002 First flight of the @ScaledC White Knight One http://ow.ly/zPrBg http://ow.ly/zPrJF #flighttest

8/2/1966 First flight of the Sukhoi Su-17 #flighttest http://ow.ly/zSj0T via Sukhoi.org –> http://ow.ly/zSj8B

8/3/1954 First flight of the Rolls Royce “Flying Bedstead” Thrust Measuring Rig #flighttest http://ow.ly/zT6yz

8/4/1954 First flight of the P.1A, prototype of the English Electric Lightning #flighttest http://ow.ly/zUTKM

8/5/1973 First flight of the Trident TR-1 Trigull prototype C-FTRI http://ow.ly/zY6Zw

8/6/1958 First flight of Bensen B-10 propcopter “flying platform” http://ow.ly/A0P4b #photo http://ow.ly/A0P5N #flighttest

8/7/1963 First flight of the YF-12 (Blackbird fighter variant) http://ow.ly/A3yq9 / Jim Irwin was AF #TestPilot http://ow.ly/A3yvn

8/8/1946 First flight of the Convair B-36 Peacemaker #flighttest #video http://ow.ly/A6pYN / @afmuseum http://ow.ly/A6q3R

8/9/1976 First flight of the @Boeing YC-14 http://ow.ly/A8II6 / #avgeek #photos from @afmusuem http://ow.ly/A8IC1 #flighttest

8/10/1962 First flight of the Bell 533 High Performance Helicopter research test bed http://ow.ly/A9Yk6 #flighttest

8/11/1931 First flight of the Makhonine Mak-10 variable geometry aircraft — wings extended spanwise #flighttest http://ow.ly/Abrh2

8/12/1966 First flight of the Learjet 25, later used by @NASA as a flight testbed http://ow.ly/Aegai #flighttest

8/13/1957 First flight of the Vertol VZ-2 #flighttest / US Army technical report: http://ow.ly/AgX1M / #video http://ow.ly/AgXiO

8/14/1958 First flight of the Grumman Gulfstream I #flighttest | historical society website: http://ow.ly/AjJj1

8/15/2006 First flight of the @Boeing EA-18G Growler #flighttest fa-18.com / USNavy EA/F-18: http://ow.ly/AlVSA

8/16/1963 First flight of the M2-F1 at @NASAArmstrong | history, #video and #photo http://ow.ly/Aom49

8/17/1987 First flight of the Sukhoi Su-33 via Sukhoi.org http://ow.ly/AphWN #photo #flighttest

8/18/1933 First flight of the Short Scion S.16 | NACA Technical report: Full Scale Trials on Scion of Gouge Flap http://ow.ly/AqNsX

8/19/1940 First flight of the North American B-25 Mitchell #flighttest | @Boeing http://ow.ly/AtCOq | video http://ow.ly/AtCRe

8/20/2002 First flight of the KAI T-50 / KAI http://ow.ly/AwjWm / @LockheedMartin http://ow.ly/AwjZW #flighttest

8/21/1974 First flight of the @BAESystemsAir Hawk http://ow.ly/AyLl0 | wing aero bandaids #photo http://ow.ly/AyLsv #flighttest

8/22/2007 First flight #flighttest of the Lisa Akoya amphibious (LSA) http://ow.ly/ABn3N #video http://ow.ly/ABnb9

8/23/1948 First flight of the McDonnell XF-85 Goblin #flighttest #video http://ow.ly/ADGBb | @Boeing #history http://ow.ly/ADGCZ

8/24/1971 First flight #flightest of the Lockspeiser LDA-1 experimental/research aircraft, tandem wing aircraft http://ow.ly/AEUrq

8/25/2003 First flight of the Chengdu/PAC JF-17 | Chengdu website: http://ow.ly/AG8ma | PAC website http://ow.ly/AG8nv #flighttest

8/26/1975 First flight #flighttest of the McDonnell Douglas YC-15 via @Boeing http://ow.ly/AIRrY

8/27/1939 First flight of Heinkel He.178, 1st jet flight http://ow.ly/ALAwU | 8/27/40 FAI records 1st jet flight http://ow.ly/ALAB6

8/28/1937 First flight #flighttest of the Junkers Ju 90 passenger aircraft http://ow.ly/AOlp3

8/29/2013 First flight of the Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. HURKUS ILK UCUS http://ow.ly/AQLf7 #flighttest (lookalike Beech T-6 ?)

8/30/1985 First flight #flighttest of the Bell D-292, US Army Advanced Composite Airframe Program http://ow.ly/BblXV

8/31/1956 First flight #flighttest of the Boeing KC-135 http://ow.ly/3pAeFY

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Other first flight indices: First - January | Previous – July

Tom Peters shares the following anecdote in the book he coauthored, In Search of Excellence.

[Stanford's Harold Leavitt] view’s the managing process as an interactive flow of three variables: pathfinding, decision making, and implementation.

For example, a typical class would suggest President John Kennedy as a pathfinder. For the decision-making stereotype, they might pick Robert McNamara in his role of Secretary of Defense or Jimmy Carter as President. For the prototypical implementer, everyone thinks of Lyndon Johnson.

To add understanding, Leavitt has his class associate various occupations with his three categories. People who fall into the decision-making category include systems analysts, engineers, MBAs, statisticians, and professional managers… Implementing occupations would be those in which people essentially get their kicks from working with other people — psychologists, salesmen, teachers, social workers, and most Japanese managers. Finally, in the pathfinding category we find poets, artists, entrepreneurs…

There are countless frameworks for understanding the fuzzy characteristics of people and leaders, and Leavitt presents only one model, though it is quite useful.  I would guess that even the field of flight test has all three kinds of people.

This story presents one such way to describe human personality and behavior.  In some sense, we are summarizing an incredibly complex field with this single descriptor.

That’s what statistics does: It summarizes data with a single descriptor.

No one can be completely described, categorized, or analyzed in these three types of leadership.  But then few of us expect this leadership model to do that. Neither should we expect statistics, or any analytical tool of mathematics and statistics, to do something we never intended it to do.

Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.

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How many glasses of milk does a cow produce in a year?

That was the question I posed to the members of my family in the heated game of Wits and Wagers on Saturday night. Let’s be honest: You and I have no clue.
Wits and Wagers game

Somebody out there can estimate that kind of information, but you and I cannot. So what should a leader do when faced with this kind of uncertainty?

Here’s what I did: I asked myself a series of questions that I felt like I could reasonably answer.

1. Can a cow produce one glass of milk per day? Yes.

2. Can a cow produce three glasses of milk per day? Yes.

3. Can a cow produce an average of three glasses of milk per day every day of the year? (Probably, even if it misses a day–even it if misses both days on the weekends every week.) Three glass per day X 365 days per year is over a thousand glasses per year.

At this point, my estimate is a bigger number than I could ever have reasonably guessed initially.  I’m not good at throwing thousands of glasses of milk around in my mind.  But’s it’s certainly more reasonable than if I had just thrown some big number out (off the top of my head). The Heath brothers explore this idea in their book about communicating ideas.

There is something else about my estimate that I’d like to point out.  It’s a lower bound.  I’m pretty sure that a cow can produce a lot more than three glasses of milk per day. I don’t know how many.  But in this game of Wits and Wagers, underestimating is a strategy that makes sense, because according to the rules of the game, overestimating results in automatic elimination.  All I have to do is find a big enough number that’s larger than my competitors’ guesses and smaller than the truth.  Choosing a statistic relevant to the reality at hand is something I’ve suggested before.

Related posts
Who goes first? (This one is about family game night too.) | Previous: Which door is closer? | ATOMs Index

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Download the white paper manifesto below to learn more about ATOMs, Michelangelo’s paintbrush, and General Abrams.

“Frito’s chips and Maytag’s washers ought to be commodities.”

This is an observation by the authors in the preface of the management classic, In Search of Excellence. It is extremely relevant today in this sense: Analytics, statistics, big data–these ought to be commodities.

So why is it that these are only buzz words and not game-changing innovations? The author’s suggest an answer to their own implicit question.

The problem in America is that our fascination with the tools of management obscures our apparent ignorance of the art. Our tools are biased toward measurement and analysis. We can measure the costs. But with these tools alone we can’t really elaborate on the value of a turned-on Maytag or Caterpillar work force churning out quality products or a Frito-Lay salesperson going that extra mile for the ordinary customer.

We can’t measure value with tools alone — that’s why we need you, the leader, to understand and apply them.

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Previous: Which door is closer?

ATOMs Index

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Download the white paper manifesto below to learn more about ATOMs, Michelangelo’s paintbrush, and General Abrams.

I’ve found myself re-reading many of the posts that I wrote years ago.  Maybe it’s a process of counting my blessings. In any case, I listed each of the posts in chronological order here, because no other archive system seems to be suitable, and I needed to count my blessings.

#1 Introduction

#2 A Rant about Debt

#3 Who Can Find a Virtuous Woman?

#4 What is High Calling?

#5 Watching Someone Drown

#6 Is it a Leap or a Trudge?

#7 Eject!

#8 What was that Phone Call?

#9 Running in Circles

#10 Command Perspective – the Strong Tower

#11 Command Perspective (part 2) – the Strong Tower

#11 Before and After

#12 Charlie Duke Moonwalker

#13 Who can Find?

#14 Running on a New Trail

#15 Circles

#16 Can’t See Where We’re Going

#17 Little League and Hypersonic Aerospace Planes

#18 3 Things you can Have and Still Fail (or, I don’t know what I think about Samuel Langley.)

#19 A Handbook for a Future Test Pilot

#20 Two Years in the Wilderness

#21 Two Years in the Wilderness (continued)

#22 What is it Like at 25,000 ft?

#23 Climb Higher, See Farther

#24 Twenty-five Years in 12 Seconds

Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.

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You’ve just read observations, a monthly column that illustrates in my personal life and leadership the technical concepts found in ATOMs.

I don’t believe, unequivocally, in disruption. It seems to be a fad rather than a real theory. However, the Apollo missions give some thought provoking counterexamples.  Much of these missions are a case study in incrementalism.  There is a great deal of theory that suggests incremental progress is the ideal.

The launch of an Apollo mission is a case for disruption.  This was a “go/no-go” moment, a singular event that could have altered the outcome. In some sense, I’m arguing for a quantum approach to progress, that it can only be made in finite steps and not infinitesimal ones.

Landing on the moon provides another example.
as15-82-11057
Here’s what Apollo 15 LM pilot James Irwin says about the moon landing:

The light came on. I called “Contact!” Dave immediately pressed the button to shut the engine, and then we fell. We hit. We hit hard.

It was the hardest landing I have ever been in. Then we pitched up and rolled off to the side. It was a tremendous impact with a pitching and rolling motion. Everything rocked around, and I thought all the gear was going to fall off. I was sure something was broken, and we might have to go into one of those abort situations. If you pass 45 degrees and are still moving, you have to abort. If the Lunar Module turns over on its side, you can’t get back from the moon…

We just froze in position as we waited for the ground to look at all our systems. They had to tell us whether we had a STAY condition.

As soon as we got the STAY, we started powering down. Evidently, we had landed right on the rim of a small crater. Dave and I pounded each other on the shoulder, feeling real relief and gratitude. We had made it.

There is a singular event that could have inexorably altered the outcome. In this case, it did not happen.

Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.

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You’ve just read observations, a monthly column that illustrates in my personal life and leadership the technical concepts found in ATOMs.

Feedback needed: Should I clean up the format? Should I hyperlink or just leave it as plain text? What else do you like or not like about the layout? Send a tweet to @FlightTestFact with your thoughts.

7/1/2002 First flight of the Pilatus PC-21, next gen PC-7 #flighttest http://ow.ly/yDRuM / Pilatus fan page http://ow.ly/yDRwC

7/2/2007 First flight of the Eclipse 400 #flighttest http://ow.ly/yHrfU

7/3/1982 First flight of the F-16XL, eventually became a @NASAArmstrong Laminar Flow research aircraft http://ow.ly/yK2lj #flighttest

7/4/1986 First flight of the @Dassault_onAir Rafale #flighttest | Photo Gallery – Dassault Aviation Photo Library http://ow.ly/yMkQv

7/5/1948 First flight of the Schweizer 1-23 #flighttest | the iconic company http://ow.ly/yOh2z | the sailplane http://ow.ly/yOh2X

7/6/2007 First flight of the Epic Victory very light jet #flighttest http://ow.ly/yP2oo | another example of the failed VLJ

7/7/1962 First flight of the Lockheed XV-4 Hummingbird VTOL #flighttest #video http://ow.ly/yQB8l | vstol.org

7/8/1947 First flight of the @Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser commercial transport #flighttest http://ow.ly/yTUVv

7/9/1963 First flight of the Lockheed NF-104, 56-0756 pictured here. #flighttest http://ow.ly/yWz2Y

7/10/1942 First flight of the Douglas A-26 / B-26 Invader #flighttest http://ow.ly/yZt3P via @BoeingAirplanes

7/11/2002 First flight of the Adam A500 tandem twin #flighttest http://ow.ly/z2doR via @FlyingMagazine

7/12/1966 First flight of the Northrop M2-F2 lifting body #photo #video http://ow.ly/z4LS6 / @NASAArmstrong http://ow.ly/z4LVH

7/13/1953 First flight of the Custer Channel Wing prototype STOL aircraft #flighttest @flightglobal archive http://ow.ly/z5QIm

7/14/1954 First flight of the McDonnell XV-1 research convertiplane #flighttest http://ow.ly/z7smL

7/15/2004 First flight of the @AleniaAermacchi M-346 advanced jet trainer #flighttest http://ow.ly/zazb8

7/16/1965 First flight of the OV-10 Bronco #flighttest http://ow.ly/zdy1e via @BoeingAirplanes

7/17/1989 First flight of the Northrop B-2 Spirit #flighttest http://ow.ly/zg6u2 via @afmuseum

7/18/2002 First flight of the YAL-1 ABL (airborne laser) #flighttest http://ow.ly/zj1OE via @boeing

7/19/1943 First flight of the Curtiss XP-55 Ascender http://ow.ly/zliHf #flighttest via @afmuseum

7/20/2005 First flight of the Grob G180 SPn #flighttest http://ow.ly/zmr1V

7/21/1943 First flight of the Curtiss XP-62, largest single seat pursuit aircraft ever proposed #flighttest http://ow.ly/zo0B5

7/22/1955 First flight of the Republic XF-84H Thunderscreech–prop created 900 sonic booms per minute #flighttest http://ow.ly/zreLM

7/23/1952 First flight of the Fouga CM.170 Magister jet trainer #flighttest http://ow.ly/ztPak

7/24/1953 First flight of the Ikarus 452-M, Yugoslavian experimental aircraft #flighttest http://ow.ly/zwWpM

7/25/2000 First flight of the Aero Vodochody Ae270 Spirit #flighttest / Cockpit #photo http://ow.ly/zzr0R

7/26/2007 First flight of the @EmbraerSA Phenom 100 #flighttest http://ow.ly/zBWnp

7/28/1935 First flight of the @Boeing XB-17 #flighttest http://ow.ly/zErZp / the greatest bomber of WW II @afmuseum

7/29/1963 First flight of the Tupolev Tu-134 — airliner in the Eastern bloc countries http://ow.ly/zHaBU #flighttest

7/30/1959 First flight of the Northrop YF-5A #flighttest @afmuseum Factsheets : Northrop F-5 http://ow.ly/zJPWC

7/31/2010 First flight of World’s First Human-Powered Ornithopter, Snowbird http://ow.ly/zMAFo #news http://ow.ly/zMARz

5/31/2002 First flight of the Toyota TAA-1 #flighttest http://ow.ly/xsZOa http://ow.ly/xsZPh 

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Other first flight indices: First - January | Previous – June

I went to a local mall the other day, and based on my inability to find a good parking spot, I found myself farther than expected from the entrance I had planned to use. As I walked towards the building, I noticed another entrance, and it appeared that I was almost the same distance from each entrance. There was nothing obstructing me–no rows of cars or sidewalks or medians–that would have helped me decide which direction to choose. My instinct said to choose the right entrance.

Then I stopped myself. I don’t have an instinct about this kind of thing.

And I forced myself to re-evaluate using some concrete criterion.  I do not say quantitative or even objective criterion. I just wanted to pin down one factor upon which I would base my decision. In the end, I felt that entrance Right was closer to the corner of the building then entrance Left, and I was headed directly for the building corner–now you can more easily see that criteria need not be numeric but can be more general like “closer”.

In most decision making, we have initial tendencies and biases. Sometimes we can go through the whole process I described above faster than we can think it. But sometimes we revert to habitual ways of making decisions. The point is to make sure we are using data and not habit when necessary.

Related posts
Playing Dice with Decisions
Who goes first?

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Previous: Why is Probability Important?

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Download the white paper manifesto below to learn more about ATOMs, Michelangelo’s paintbrush, and General Abrams. ATOMs is a monthly column that introduces analytical tools of mathematics and statistics and illustrates their application. To read more about ATOMs, go to the incomplete index, read Where Do We Go From Here, or view the online workbook here.

Not all words are powerful.

Words spoken in the proper context by the appropriate person can be extremely powerful. “Cleared for takeoff” is one such example. These words must be delivered by the appropriate air traffic controller, at a specific time, to a particular aircraft. It is the combination of these three things, along with the actual message, that makes the clearance meaningful.

1. Context

2. Speaker

3. Receiver

4. Message

In some cases, even jargon is necessary. Communication is complicated, which means that we have an important responsibility to steward the power of words.

A corollary is this: Some words should be written down. Some words should be spoken. Some words should not.

Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.

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You’ve just read observations, a monthly column that illustrates in my personal life and leadership the technical concepts found in ATOMs. Some people may not want the technical content that appears elsewhere on this website–if you only want to follow these more personal updates, I set up a special subscription for that option here: by Email or RSS.

Sometimes on the road of life, I find myself in two roles–both leader and follower. For example, when you stand in a line, you follow the person in front of yourself, but you lead the person behind you. I don’t believe that you have to be a leader or a follower. In fact, I think the best leaders are the ones following something worthwhile and helping those who can’t yet lead themselves.

Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.

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You’ve just read observations, a monthly column that illustrates in my personal life and leadership the technical concepts found in ATOMs. Some people may not want the technical content that appears elsewhere on this website–if you only want to follow these more personal updates, I set up a special subscription for that option here: by Email or RSS.

Feedback needed: Should I clean up the format? Should I hyperlink or just leave it as plain text? What else do you like or not like about the layout? Send a tweet to @FlightTestFact with your thoughts.

6/1/1944 First flight of the Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning #flighttest http://ow.ly/3leDJr

6/2/2009 First flight of the Lockheed Martin X-55 ACCA #flighttest http://ow.ly/3lh5I6

6/3/1949 First flight of the Lockheed XF-90, with variable incidence empennage #flighttest http://ow.ly/xz1LN via @afmuseum

6/4/1980 First flight of the Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15J #flighttest http://ow.ly/3lmegf

6/8/1959 First flight of the North American X-15 / #video http://ow.ly/xKNDK #flighttest / X-15 symposium: http://ow.ly/xKNFc

6/9/1974 First flight of the Northrop YF-17 prototype #video http://ow.ly/xMbo0 / @afmuseum http://ow.ly/xMbpb #flighttest

6/10/1987 First flight of the Boeing Model 360, technology demonstrator #flighttest @flightglobal article http://ow.ly/xPg1v

6/11/2012 First flight of the FlyNano Proto, single seat LSA type seaplane #flighttest http://ow.ly/xRWQ5

6/12/1994 First flight of the @Boeing 777 Airplane http://ow.ly/xUWdG #flighttest

6/13/1979 First flight of Solar One, 3d electric aircraft to fly #photo @flightglobal http://ow.ly/xXzF6 / #photo http://ow.ly/xXzHa

6/14/13 A350 XWB First Flight http://ow.ly/y0OVH #flighttest via @airbus @airbusintheUS

6/15/1945 First flight of the North American XP-82 Twin Mustang #flighttest http://ow.ly/y2I4p / blog: http://ow.ly/y2I5o

6/16/1954 First flight of the Lockheed XFV-1, experimental VTOL aircraft #flighttest http://ow.ly/y4tZY

6/17/1961 First flight of India’s first jet aircraft, the HAL-HF-24, #flighttest http://ow.ly/y7KXE http://ow.ly/y7L2L

6/18/1981 First flight of the @Lockheed Martin F-117 Nighthawk http://ow.ly/yaw2S #flighttest

6/19/1950 First Flight of the Hawker P.1081 “Australian Fighter” #flighttest http://ow.ly/3lXmpq

6/20/1951 First flight of the Bell X-5 variable wing-sweep research aircraft #flighttest #photo @NASAArmstrong http://ow.ly/yfESh

6/22/1984 First flight of the Rutan Voyager via @airandspace #flighttest http://ow.ly/yj5ja

6/23/2006 First flight of the Cessna NGP proof of concept aircraft #flighttest http://ow.ly/3m55f3

6/24/1956 First flight of the Sukhoi Su-9 Fishpot #flighttest http://ow.ly/ynT8l

6/25/1946 First flight of the Northrop YB-35 #flighttest http://ow.ly/3m8Xc2

6/26/1983 First flight of the Hawker-800 #flighttest http://ow.ly/yt0ro

6/27/1952 First flight (unpowered glide) of the Bell X-2 #flighttest http://ow.ly/yvIBq Also see bellx-2.com via @filmwings

6/29/2007 First flight of the Piasecki X-49 (VTDP) vectored thrust ducted propeller #flighttest http://ow.ly/yzenL

6/30/1968 First flight of the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy #flighttest http://ow.ly/yABhq via @usairforce

5/31/2002 First flight of the Toyota TAA-1 #flighttest http://ow.ly/xsZOa http://ow.ly/xsZPh 

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Other first flight indices: First - January | Previous – May

Aeronautical VFR ChartI’ve been having a conversation with other members of my profession, flight test, an area of expertise that involves engineering, aviation, and generally speaking, the scientific process. The major points of my plea are as follows.

1. I personally believe that probability and other applied tools of mathematics and statistics are as important as airmanship. [At this point, I have, by my choice of words--airmanship--down-selected the breadth of my audience.]
2. I also believe that it’s not the formula for standard deviation (or any other probability distribution) that’s most important but the “big ideas,” the fundamental principles and the way they guide our thinking.
3. I want to write a clear and convincing explanation in some format less than dissertation length.
Would you mind reading the anecdote and letting me know if a light bulb comes on for you? Does it do what I am trying to do?

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I want you to recall an elementary idea, a cross-country flight. Do you remember back to the days when you were learning how to fly? For me, the plane was a Cessna 152, tail number four-hotel-bravo, and the place was Cook County Airport (15J) in southern Georgia. My instructor’s name was Ian. He flew seaplanes somewhere in the South Pacific for many years before teaching private pilot students.
When I walked into the flight school one day, Ian told me something I would never forget. In fact, he predicted I would never forget it before he even told me: “Can ducks make vertical turns with turbulence.” That mnemonic helps me remember the steps needed to plan a cross-country flight. The fact is, a pilot’s head is full of crazy sayings and silly words that mean something when translated into aviation jargon. Remembering a wacky sentence about ducks is easier than remembering Compass heading, Deviation, Magnetic heading, Variance, True heading, Wind correction, and True course. Back at Cook County Airport, I opened up the sectional charts and sat down to figure out where I wanted to go. Once I did, I could draw a single straight line on my chart and jot down a heading. Those two things would get me pretty close: 255° magnetic for 25 minutes. After five minutes on a 255° heading, I should cross over a major highway with an overpass to my left. I look outside to see where it is. It’s not as far south as I thought it would be. At seven-and-a-half minutes, I should pass over the southern tip of a large pond. The pond is just north of my position. Apparently, the winds are drifting me south of my intended course. I correct my heading to 260. At 15 minutes, I should overfly an intersection in a small town. I am just north of the intersection. A heading of 260 degrees corrected me back to course and then a bit right. Two-five-seven is right in between. That should keep me on course.

These steps—clock to map to ground—are the process we follow when navigating in an aircraft. The idea that “The pond is just north of my position” and being able to make that judgment call is a critical element of airmanship. It’s also a fundamental principle of applied tools of mathematics and statistics. “Just north of my position” is close enough…in this case, we don’t need to quantify what “just north of” means.

In conclusion, I want to explicitly state three fundamental facts illustrated in this anecdote.
1. We are going to encounter uncertainty. Uncertainty means we won’t hit every waypoint.
2. Predict-test-evaluate is the process for navigating uncertainty. In aviation, this means plan the flight— fly the plan using the “Clock-map-ground” technique—and evaluate using your “engineering judgment” when that’s close enough.
3. Probability and other applied tools of mathematics and statistics help us evaluate when “that’s close enough” (as in the case of navigation above) or when more rigor is needed.

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Download the white paper manifesto below to learn more about ATOMs, Michelangelo’s paintbrush, and General Abrams.

ATOMs is a monthly column that introduces analytical tools of mathematics and statistics and illustrates their application. To read more about ATOMs, go to the incomplete index, read Where Do We Go From Here, or view the online workbook here.

Feedback needed: Should I clean up the format? Should I hyperlink or just leave it as plain text? What else do you like or not like about the layout? Send a tweet to @FlightTestFact with your thoughts.

5/1/2012 First flight of the GippsAero GA10 Airvan #flighttest http://ow.ly/wc9J7 @gippsaero1

5/2/2009 First flight of the Gweduck amphibious experimental, replica of Grumman Widgeon http://ow.ly/wcaiT http://ow.ly/wcajX

5/3/1977 First flight of the @one_bell Bell XV-15 titlrotor VTOL experimental aircraft #flighttest http://ow.ly/wrOI5 via @airandspace

5/4/1963 First flight of the @DassaultFalcon 20 Mystere #flighttest http://ow.ly/wrPuv

5/5/2005 First flight of the Falcon 7X #flighttest http://ow.ly/wrQ6N / @Dassault_OnAir http://ow.ly/wrQ7p

5/6/1959 First flight of the @SNECMA Coléoptère #flighttest http://ow.ly/wrQhA

5/7/1944 First flight of the Beechcraft XA-38 #flighttest http://ow.ly/wrQzc @afmuseum

5/8/1971 First flight of the @Dassault_OnAir Mirage G8-01 variable geometry prototype aircraft via @MuseeAirEspace http://ow.ly/wrQXg

5/9/1937 First flight of the Lockheed XC-35, 1st ever pressurized cabin for military high-alt research #flighttest http://ow.ly/wrQs4

5/10/1972 First flight of the Fairchild Republic A-10A #flighttest http://ow.ly/wrRaj @afmuseum

5/11/1987 First flight of the Learjet 31 #flighttest http://ow.ly/wHFwI @Bombardier_Aero

5/12/1967 First flight of the Aermacchi AM.3 — this one was flown by @theNTPS National Test Pilot School

5/13/1940 First flight of the Bell XFL Airabonita experimental interceptor – competed w/ P-39 Airacobra http://ow.ly/wHFWH #flighttest

5/14/1939 First flight of the Short Stirling, RAF’s first 4-engine bomber of WWII #flighttest http://ow.ly/wHG4g

5/15/1939 First flight of the Fairchild PT-19 primary pilot training aircraft #flighttest http://ow.ly/wHG9P

5/16/1930 First flight of the Bleriot-Zappata 110 French research plane #flighttest http://ow.ly/wHGyF

5/17/1997 First flight of the Boeing X-36 #flighttest http://ow.ly/wHGP6 @afmuseum // @NASAArmstrong http://ow.ly/wHGPU

5/18/1940 First flight of the @Saabgroup Saab 17 ow.ly/wXDvp / #video ow.ly/wXDxc

5/19/1943 First flight of the Boeing-Lockheed Vega XB-38 #flighttest @afmuseum http://ow.ly/wZNJ5

5/20/2003 First flight of Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne #flighttest http://ow.ly/x2AKa #photo gallery http://ow.ly/x2AQK

5/21/2005 First flight of the @Boeing KC-767 International Tanker #flighttest http://ow.ly/x5Dh2

5/22/1981 First flight of the Gulfstream Peregrine 600 / on @flighglobal http://ow.ly/x8fnD / #photo http://ow.ly/x8fpk #flighttest

5/24/1967 First flight of Aero Spaceline Mini Guppy #flighttest / #video http://ow.ly/xdPOT / @BoeingAirplanes http://ow.ly/xdPR8

5/25/1964 First flight of the Ryan XV-5 Vertifan #flighttest http://ow.ly/xex9l / #video http://ow.ly/xexgM http://ow.ly/xexhj

5/26/2004 First flight of the Bombardier Global Express Sentinel R1 5/Airborne Stand-off Radar Aircraft (ASTOR) http://ow.ly/xfQY3

5/27/1958 First flight of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II #flighttest via @BoeingAirplanes http://ow.ly/xhSRP

5/27/1970 First flight of the Boeing Vertol 347 testbed with variable incidence wing #flighttest http://ow.ly/xkG5J #helicopter

5/29/2004 First flight of the HAL Saras Indian light transport aircraft #flighttest http://ow.ly/xnykX

5/30/1972 First flight of the Northrop YA-9A prototype fighter in USAF flyoff #flighttest via @afmuseum http://ow.ly/xqxaE

5/31/2002 First flight of the Toyota TAA-1 #flighttest http://ow.ly/xsZOa http://ow.ly/xsZPh 

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Check out @FlightTestFact on Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+ for more flight test safety references, videos, and information daily.

Other first flight indices: First - January | Previous – April

Col James B. Irwin was the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 15.  Irwin crashed a plane, breaking almost every bone in his body, just a few years before being accepted into the astronaut program.

His biography, To Rule the Night, will be available on the Kindle on July 26th, 2014, the anniversary of his launch into space.

irwin-jb

Here are several interesting links that are still quite active.

After he returned from the moon, he started the High Flight Foundation.

Facebook:

Page for James Irwin

James B Irwin personal page

To Rule the Night (coming July 26)

High Flight Foundation of facebook

Official bio from NASA

22 May 1981 was the first flight of the Gulfstream American Peregrine 600, a trainer aircraft prototype developed for the US military.

Gulfstream Peregrine 600

Flightglobal published a news piece on the aircraft here.
You can see two more pictures of the aircraft here.

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Airplanes by Design features photographs of aircraft from a test pilot perspective, highlighting aeronautical engineering characteristics and flight test facts.

WANTED: Your pictures and videos. Do you have pictures of aircraft that uniquely illustrate airplane design characteristics?

I’d be happy to post them and link to your website. Send a message to @FlightTestFact on Twitter to share your Airplanes by Design stories and photos. See more Flight Test photos flickr or Pinterest too.

Rose Petal Press is the digital storehouse for free downloads of pictures, like this collection of Apollo 16 photos. If there is a particular set of photos you need, contact me, and I’d be happy to upload a zip file for your use.

8 May 1971 was the first flight of the @Dassault_OnAir Mirage G8-01 variable geometry prototype aircraft.  Find out more about Dassault in this list of Flight Test YouTube channels.

Dassault_Mirage_G8

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Airplanes by Design features photographs of aircraft from a test pilot perspective, highlighting aeronautical engineering characteristics and flight test facts.

WANTED: Your pictures and videos. Do you have pictures of aircraft that uniquely illustrate airplane design characteristics?

I’d be happy to post them and link to your website. Send a message to @FlightTestFact on Twitter to share your Airplanes by Design stories and photos. See more Flight Test photos flickr or Pinterest too.

Rose Petal Press is the digital storehouse for free downloads of pictures, like this collection of Apollo 16 photos. If there is a particular set of photos you need, contact me, and I’d be happy to upload a zip file for your use.

Click here for more information from the @MuseeAirEspace or here for more information from Dassault.

1 May 1942 was the first flight of the Miles M-35, a prototype carrier fighter flown by Miles himself.

Miles Libellula M-35 UO235

Read the original Flightglobal news article here.

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Airplanes by Design features photographs of aircraft from a test pilot perspective, highlighting aeronautical engineering characteristics and flight test facts.

WANTED: Your pictures and videos. Do you have pictures of aircraft that uniquely illustrate airplane design characteristics?

I’d be happy to post them and link to your website. Send a message to @FlightTestFact on Twitter to share your Airplanes by Design stories and photos. See more Flight Test photos flickr or Pinterest too.

Rose Petal Press is the digital storehouse for free downloads of pictures, like this collection of Apollo 16 photos. If there is a particular set of photos you need, contact me, and I’d be happy to upload a zip file for your use.

Click here to read more about this airplane.