Many people wrote in about “What’s All This Canyon Turn Stuff, Anyhow?” (25 October 2007, p. 24). Some suggested the pilot should do a Chandelle, an Immelman, a Wingover, or a Hammerhead Stall. Tony Schrock suggested www.scootworks.com/ rdrc/aerobat.html for illustrations of these and other maneuvers. But as the plane was fully loaded and underpowered, and the elevation was 8000 ft, and the day was hot, none of those were going to work.
Some people said my 20° flaps setting was about right. Others said that full flaps might even be better. Some guys said, “Line up above a road when you practice this over low country, and see how far offset you are after your turn.” One guy suggested using a GPS, and that should work even better.
Everybody agreed that you never want to fly up into a canyon, and even flying down through a canyon could be very dangerous unless you were positive there were no bad kinks. One guy, however, said that my theory that a cat won’t crawl into a small hole if its whiskers were scratching the sides was just an old wives’ tale. Well, that’s what my mother told me, and maybe she was wrong.
Here’s a related story.
Hello Bob: I read your article on the canyon turn. I too had a good friend perish in a similar event in the Sierras. He was my boss at my first job after high school. I then moved on to become a pilot myself after a short run in the Navy and made a career of it until starting my current company. His memory stays with me to date. I had a similar event while on my long crosscountry flight for my commercial license that proves your input here. After a trip to Los Angeles, Vegas, then Reno, I got up the next morning, and guess what... snow! I did my preflight checking, weather at destination, etc. Visibility was visual flight rules, but barely. I decided to load up and give it a run for the pass. I did go to the pilot briefing room and studied a local chart posted on the wall. It had the box canyon to the left of the pass highlighted. My father was an ex-B-17 pilot. I asked him, being on the right side, to watch for the highway to turn to the right, marking the pass exit to turn down, to then follow Highway 50. Yup, he missed it. I had hit my clock to mark time and decided that if he hadn’t called it by then, I would head back. Visibility was lowering quickly, to about half a mile in blowing snow. We were heading into the jaws of the storm—and the box canyon. I started my turn and noticed the trees coming into view very quickly. I ran the flaps now to Max L/D (about 22°) and applied full power during the turn. The pine cones were now visible. The stall warning horn was hinting what an idiot I was! I continued the turn (obviously, since I am writing you) and made my way back to the airport.
We all jumped out with shaking
knees and went for a cold one!
Stayed a day or so longer and
made it home safely. I became a
flight instructor and made it a practice
to teach that experience and
technique. It works. I used to fly
into canyons practicing the maneuver
as far as I could go and make
a turn (in good weather). Thought I
would share it with you. You may
save someone’s life or lives. Good
• Michael A.
• Pease: Yeah, man. It’s tough to figure out the navigation in the best conditions, not to mention in snow. I’m glad that heavy flaps and full power got you around the curve.
Bob: Back in World War II, B-17s
flying to England from the U.S. had
to stop for gas at West Bluie Two, a
landing strip in Greenland.
Unfortunately, WB2 was many
miles up a fjord, and there were
three identical fjords in the area. If
you went up the wrong fjord, you
were in a heap of trouble. The only
definite way to recognize the correct
one was to fly up one, and if
you did not see a sunken ship 2.6
miles up the fjord, you were in the
wrong one and had to do an immediate
canyon turn. Not easy to do
in the fog at the end of a long flight
with engines and props configured
for maximum range. Those were
real men in those days.
• George Gonzalez
• Pease: Uh, yeah. But at least the plane was lightly loaded. Was it really that hard for a B-17 with no bomb load to fly from Newfy to Greenland? Maybe. And speaking of B-17s again, I saw a B-17 take off from Moffet Field recently, and it was damn impressive. And not very big. Just tough as nails, as were the kids who flew them.
As for the test when an oil can was getting full (“Bob’s Mailbox,” 8 November 2007, p. 24), several people chided me for using electronics when a simple float would work much better. But none of them were able to convince me that the float wouldn’t get jammed or stuck. So, I think one of the electronic solutions might be the winner.
[email protected] —or:
Mail Stop D2597A, National
Semiconductor, P.O. Box 58090,
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090, USA.
BOB PEASE obtained a BSEE from MIT in 1961 and is staff scientist at National Semiconductor Corp., Santa Clara, Calif.