I’m sure you’ve seen video of a Boeing 737 lifting off as yet another news reader drones on about the MCAS troubles in the MAX version of the world’s most popular airliner. If you watched closely, you have seen what looks like a wire or tube with a cone on the end trailing from the top of the rudder.What the heck is that thing, and why is the 737 dragging it through the air?
The media uproar created by two fatal accidents in new Boeing 737 MAX airline jets makes me wonder if Boeing, or any transport jet maker, can continue to trust pilots to be a critical part of aircraft systems. Let me explain.
Given its string of success in evolutionary model design it was natural for people at Beech to continue to look for more ways to evolve their airplanes in new directions. In the early 1980s somebody, or perhaps a small group of people, realized they had the basis for a very good single-engine turboprop.
As I was thinking about the Y2K panic it dawned on me that the FAA and its computers all operate on a single time—Zulu. That meant Y2K would arrive at 7 pm eastern time on the Zulu clock. If the ATC system were going to blowup it would happen then. So I decided that was the perfect time to be in the air and flying in the system.
I learned to fly in a Piper Colt at tiny Concord Airpark east of Cleveland. It was nearly 50 years ago and in the more than 10,000 hours of flying all types of general aviation airplanes since these are the events that did much to shape my life in the air.
I was so lucky to work for and with Richard for more than 40 years. Richard refused to be called an aviation journalist. What he did, and I did, at FLYING magazine, and for him at AOPA Pilot, and then for Air Facts Journal on the web, is personal aviation promotion. Richard championed the cause of using our own airplanes for personal travel on our own schedule with a maximum of schedule reliability and safety.
Beech, as every successful company does, had ongoing efforts to design improved and replacement airplanes for the company line. In the late 1970s John Pike had his preliminary design group perform configuration studies on airplanes that could supersede Beech’s King Air 90 and 200 stalwart turboprops. The X700 seemed to be the best idea, but it was never made.
Suddenly the King Air started to move. But it wasn’t turning left, it was slewing to the right. I mashed both brake pedals as hard as I could, but the airplane kept sliding toward the Falcon and the FBO office building. The lineman started running backward as fast as he could on the icy surface.
Archie Trammell died in early February at age 89. Archie accomplished much over decades in aviation, including being a foremost expert on use of airborne weather radar. But I think his greatest contribution was making it possible to compare airplane performance, weight and price using a constant standard.
When one examines a failure of such monumental scale as the Beech Starship program, the inevitable question is, “Why did they do that?” As in almost every instance where things go badly wrong, it was a series of decisions made under shifting circumstances that led to the ultimate disaster.
When we asked Air Facts editor Richard Collins 13 questions in a recent article, readers told us they wanted more. So we put EAA Director of Publications Mac McClellan on the spot in this latest edition. For over 30 years, Mac was the Editor-in-Chief of Flying magazine, where he was known for honest opinions. He shares more in this article.