All Questions

218
votes
4answers
140k views

What is the dark spot visible below the cockpit on A-10s?

On most A-10s I have seen, the area under the cockpit is darker than the rest of the plane. Is there a reason for this?
154
votes
14answers
107k views

Can Microsoft Flight Simulator help me learn to fly (or make me a better pilot)?

Microsoft Flight Simulator has "flight lessons" with a virtual flight instructor, some of which teach concepts that are taught during actual flight training. These simulators are becoming very ...
140
votes
3answers
34k views

Why does XKCD say that autogyros will crash if the pilot reacts to a stall as in a normal airplane?

This recent XKCD comic is all about autogyros. Image is copyright XKCD, licensed under CC 2.5 BY-NC The note at the bottom is what got my attention Extremely safe, unless you do the one thing you ...
115
votes
10answers
70k views

Is this plane landing or departing?

I have a picture of Air Force One I took fairly up close several years ago. Unfortunately, I don't remember if that was on arrival or departure. Is there anything visible in the airplane's ...
111
votes
9answers
26k views

How do jet fighters get to war?

Currently Australia is deploying F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to the UAE to fight in Iraq. Obviously the UAE (and Iraq) is a very long way from Australia and well beyond the typical range of one of these ...
103
votes
13answers
26k views

Why does it take so long to develop modern military jets?

In the 1960's, it took three years to produce a flying prototype of an aircraft that flew faster than anything before, was built out of a novel construction material, used a new type of fuel, and was ...
102
votes
4answers
27k views

Why is the maximum speed of current fighter aircraft lower than those from the 1960's and 1970's?

While reading about the characteristics of the newest fighter aircraft, I observed that their maximum speed is lower than of the aircraft in the same roles half a century ago. For example, the iconic ...
101
votes
2answers
19k views

Why do airlines follow these routes between between Barcelona and Düsseldorf?

In the wake of GermanWings' terrible incident of flight 9525, I have noticed that the crash location is quite far from the shortest route connecting the two airports. I then went on FlightRadar24's ...
100
votes
3answers
22k views

Why did this plane fly in a zigzag pattern?

I was tracking flight NKS739 from LAX to SEA this morning and saw that it made some some odd turns. If you look at the track from FlightRadar24.com you can see that it was heading toward SEA then it ...
97
votes
7answers
32k views

Can a fighter jet be stolen?

What (if any) sort of pilot authentication systems do fighter jets have? Could anyone with the required skills simply take the aircraft or is a key or authorization code required?
94
votes
13answers
30k views

Can a passenger realistically replace suddenly incapacitated pilots?

Yes, this is a question from the movies. Assume that the plane is in flight and in perfect mechanical conditions. However, all the pilots onboard are suddenly incapacitated. Can a passenger without ...
93
votes
14answers
35k views

Why are the cockpit controls of airplanes so complicated?

For a layman like myself, the cockpit of every single modern airplane that I've laid my eyes on seems like a complex, intimidating mess with knobs, buttons, screens and levers literally covering every ...
93
votes
15answers
64k views

Why are planes generally painted white?

When planes come off the assembly line at the factory, they're green: So why are most painted white? Surely a darker colour would hide dirt better? Is there a reason planes are traditionally white? ...
93
votes
9answers
15k views

Is there a maximum possible size for an airplane?

Is there any theoretical or practical limit to the maximum number of passengers - and therefore size - one can build an airplane for?
90
votes
5answers
17k views

Why is “Affirm / Negative” used instead of “Yes / No”?

Does anyone know why we use Affirm and Negative in RT, rather than Yes and No? I assume it's to prevent confusion with accents and other languages - but Yes and No sound very different to me!
84
votes
14answers
15k views

Are wings any more efficient at creating lift, versus orienting the engine's thrust downwards?

As I understood from this article, wings on an airplane basically create lift by pushing air down. Maintaining the lift force expends energy because air needs to be continually accelerated downwards. ...
83
votes
4answers
45k views

If my parachute fails to open, why should I aim for land rather than water?

I was watching these 'what if' parachute failure videos on YouTube and everywhere they say do not choose water over land. Why should we not choose water and what happens if we land in water? One ...
82
votes
5answers
41k views

If a pilot ejects, what is the autopilot programmed to do?

If a pilot uses his ejector seat during flight, what is the autopilot programmed to do? As a developer myself, I would want to build in a way for the plane to try and save itself if possible (to save ...
82
votes
4answers
16k views

Why do we need to starve the engine before turning it off?

This question is for Piper Tomahawk, but I guess applies to any small aircraft. Why do we need to use the fuel mixture to starve the engine before turning it off with the key? Why can't we just turn ...
81
votes
10answers
51k views

Can someone actually “fly under the radar”?

It is quite a common phrase, usually without having anything to do with radar or aviation. But. Is there such a thing as 'flying under the radar'? If so, why is this (and how low is that)?
81
votes
11answers
38k views

Do pilots really wear “pilot's watches”?

High-end mechanical wristwatches from Swiss and German manufacturers (e.g. Breitling, Rolex etc.) are often marketed as "pilot's watches", and have chronometer features to supposedly help pilots ...
80
votes
10answers
43k views

Why do fighter jets still have guns/cannons?

I noticed that the "new" F-35 still has a GAU-22/A cannon installed in it -- albeit with only 182 rounds (more with ammo pods). Why do fighters still have cannons? The day of dogfighting is long ...
78
votes
6answers
21k views

Why do we still use pilots to fly airplanes?

With the recent advances in drone and remote control technology, why are there still commercial and military pilots? I understand that there can be some serious tactical advantages to human pilots in ...
78
votes
7answers
22k views

How miraculous was the miracle on the Hudson?

The "miracle on the Hudson" was extremely unusual - dual engine failures and successful off-field landings in commercial A320-size aircraft are very rare. The event has been dramatized and the crew (...
77
votes
14answers
30k views

What is the slowest fixed-wing airplane?

It's easy to find information about the fastest airplanes, in different categories (e.g. X-15, SR-71, the Concorde etc), but what is the slowest one? Which powered, manned airplane is capable of ...
76
votes
18answers
152k views

Why haven't quadcopters been scaled up yet?

Why are quadcopters not flown by human pilots yet? Wouldn't they be more stable and easier to control than helicopters?
74
votes
5answers
25k views

Why does the F-111 sometimes squirt a giant fire plume behind it? (NOT afterburners!)

As seen in multiple pictures: First, this one, it appears the aircraft is spraying copious amounts of fuel into the exhaust! Surely this provides no thrust, not in the way an afterburner (which the ...
74
votes
8answers
15k views

Why do aircraft models end their life as freighters?

There seems to be a tendency that aircraft models are more long-lived for cargo than for passenger service. For example, both the A300 and MD-11 are all but extinct in scheduled passenger service, ...
74
votes
3answers
17k views

I just flew into class B airspace without a clearance, what should I do now?

Hypothetical: Let's say (for whatever reason) a pilot became distracted or disorientated, and found themselves in class B airspace. What steps should they take immediately and after landing to be ...
74
votes
4answers
11k views

Why do control towers have tilted glass panels?

Almost all control towers I've seen have tilted glass panels: Amsterdam-Schiphol tower (EHAM), source. What is the reason behind this choice? How is the tilt angle determined?
74
votes
1answer
10k views

How is tire rubber removed from the runway?

Every time an aircraft touches down, the tires are spun up rapidly. As a result, some rubber is left at the touchdown zone. (image source) As time goes on, more rubber is accumulated at the ...
73
votes
4answers
20k views

Has any passenger airliner ever offered forward-facing windows?

The empty, dolphin-like, forehead of the A380 seems like it would be an amazing place for the first and/or business class bar, especially if it had forward-facing windows. I realize in the A380's ...
73
votes
4answers
11k views

How do civilian pilots and ATC verify that other people on the radio are who they claim to be?

I am interested in authentication - how identity is verified - in civilian aviation radio transmissions. I know that when someone is speaking on the radio he tells his call sign. But is there any ...
72
votes
5answers
20k views

Why does the B-52 take off without rotating?

In the answer to this question it is noted that the B-52 takes off without rotating and climbs out in a nose-down attitude. Why was it designed this way?
70
votes
10answers
29k views

Is a firm landing an indication of the pilot inexperience?

In a commercial airplane, when a landing has been a bit firm, a passenger may think it was not perfect, or maybe performed by an inexperienced pilot. (Source) A perfect landing is seen by passengers ...
70
votes
4answers
24k views

How did the 9/11 hijackers find their way to NYC?

It is quite well known that the airplane hijackers on 9/11 were not professional pilots. So, my question is how some people who didn't have any experience of navigating the airplanes could find their ...
70
votes
7answers
15k views

What do aircraft accident investigators do in between incidents?

Consider aircraft accident investigators in your average first- or second-world nation. Something like the US NTSB, the French BEA, the Canadian TSB, the Australian TSB, ... (whichever you happen to ...
69
votes
10answers
27k views

Why are there no “sleeper” planes?

On a recent long-haul flight I sat by the windows and was dreaming away staring into infinity out of the window. Then a thought came up, in Asia sleeping busses are very common. This made me think, ...
69
votes
15answers
17k views

Why don't commercial airplanes carry Earth-observing instruments?

Governments and private companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars to send Earth-observing satellites to capture imagery or scan the terrain with lasers or radars. Meanwhile, commercial planes ...
69
votes
6answers
12k views

What happens if a language other than English is used over the radio?

In many non-English speaking countries, communication with ATC may be conducted either in English or the native language. Famous examples are China, Russia, France and possibly Germany. When a pilot ...
69
votes
3answers
9k views

Why would seaplanes use a curved takeoff run?

I came across this interesting factoid in another SE Aviation answer (How flat does a runway need to be?): seaplanes often use a curved takeoff run. I'm trying to imagine why but cannot come up ...
69
votes
11answers
15k views

Why don't commercial jet aircraft have a break-apart, parachute escape system?

Imagine that the pilots on a jet aircraft determine that it will crash. Consider what would happen if the design of the craft allowed it to: Break into four pieces Each piece is pressurized ...
68
votes
6answers
19k views

Why are fuel tanks in the wings filled first, and why are they used last?

When fueling airliners, why is fuel filled first in the tanks in the wings and then the center tanks? And why do they use fuel from the center tanks first and then from the tanks in the wings? From ...
68
votes
4answers
16k views

Why do all commercial aircraft have carpets?

When flying I noticed that all the commercial aircraft I have been on use carpets as a floor covering. But why? If you fly in an older aircraft it looks worn out and it is susceptible to stains etc. ...
68
votes
13answers
16k views

Is it considered good or bad practice to raise the flaps right after touchdown?

This question is about light, tricycle, single engine aircraft. I have made it a habit to raise the flaps right after touchdown (when the nosewheel is on the ground). My instructor used to do that ...
67
votes
7answers
14k views

Do helicopters use more fuel when hovering?

This answer says A helicopter uses a LOT more fuel hovering than it does in forward flight. Is this correct? Why?
67
votes
6answers
9k views

How do people suffering from hypoxia not realize they aren't getting enough oxygen?

I've seen reports of flight passengers/crew suffering hypoxia, and many times without knowing it. My question is, how could you not be aware of it? For example, at above 10000ft, if your body is ...
67
votes
10answers
115k views

What happens when an airplane stalls and why do pilots practice it?

When a non-pilot hears the word stall, it brings to mind what happens when a car stalls - the engine quits. It seems like that would be a dangerous scenario in an airplane. From a non-pilot ...
65
votes
14answers
16k views

Has there ever been a plane not controlled from the nose?

Has there ever been an airplane where the pilot, or cockpit were not located near the nose of the airplane?
64
votes
2answers
14k views

How was I able to just plug in my headphones and listen to ATC and pilot chatter?

I was travelling from Mumbai to Newark Liberty Intl on United Airlines 49, a Boeing 777-200. I was sitting in the economy section, last row, last seat to the plane's left, basically, I was literally ...

15 30 50 per page