formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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Oct 13, 2015 More FAQs

The Liberty Gazette
Oct 13, 2015

Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

This week we’ll continue with answering a few more frequently asked questions about flying. 

Question: How do you know when you can land at a non-towered (uncontrolled) airport? ​

Answer: No permission required, but for safety and common courtesy we let other pilots know where we are. 

We’ll use our Liberty airport as the example again. Think of a rectangle, with the runway being one of the long sides. That’s the "upwind" side of the rectangle. If we take off and want to stay in the airport traffic pattern, we will turn left to fly the "crosswind" leg about half a mile, then left again to the "downwind" leg, being parallel to the runway, then when we look out at the left wing and see we’re at a 45-degree angle to the end of the runway we’ll turn left again onto the "base" leg for a short distance until we make our last turn to "final", and land. 

During this time we would announce on the airport’s designated radio frequency, our airplane’s N-number and our location and intentions, like this: "Liberty traffic, Grumman 26958, Left Downwind, One-Six. Liberty." One-Six means we’ll be landing in the direction of 160 degrees. Anyone tuned in to the frequency would know where to look for us. We’d be at the expected traffic pattern altitude of 1,000 feet above the ground, flying northbound, about half a mile to the east of the runway. 

Question: Do pilots have to go through regular testing? 

Answer: Yes. Pilots must have a flight review with a certificated flight instructor every two years, or every year if they have a low experience level. 

They also must have regular medical examinations and maintain health standards set forth by the FAA. Airline and commercial charter pilots must train and take a check ride every six months. Pilots flying jets for corporations must train and pass a check every year in at least one of the jets they fly and every two years in all the jets they fly in order to keep flying them. Flight instructors must get re-qualified every two years in order to maintain their instructor qualifications. 

Question: How fast can you go? 

Answer: The speeds of planes range from the very slow, some not even as fast as a car, to military aircraft that fly supersonic. 

The SR-71 Blackbird spy plane flew from Los Angeles to New York in 68 minutes and 17 seconds, slowing down at least once to air-refuel. In 1976 the Blackbird flew at 2,193.2 mph over Edwards Air Force Base, more than three times the speed of sound. Our four-seat, single-engine, piston-powered Grumman Cheetah flies at about 140 mph when we’re not racing, just cruising. Airliners see speeds of 500-560 mph. 

Question: How high can you fly? 

Answer: Like speeds, altitude capabilities vary. Small, single-engine planes generally are able to climb to 12,000 to 16,000 feet. Some go higher because they have turbochargers on their engines. 

There are also turboprops, sometimes referred to as jet props and they can climb 25,000 feet to 35,000 feet. Some airliners can climb to 41,000 feet and some corporate jets fly as high as 51,000 feet. The U-2 Dragon Lady and SR-71 have altitudes that are classified but are believed to be above 100,000 feet. The SR-71 normally operated around 80,000 feet and the crew members donned spacesuits, as do U-2 pilots. 

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