Fun Facts

Watching the birds as they’d glide through the air
I was thinking, “The view must be great from up there!”

Birds are warm-blooded vertebrate animals that have wings, feathers, a beak, and no teeth. Flying birds have strong, hollow bones and powerful flight muscles. These birds also have a strong, rapidly beating heart and an extremely efficient, one-way breathing system. Their lungs take up about 20 percent of their body volume (whereas human lungs take up about 5 percent of our body volume).

There are more than 10,000 species of birds in the world, about forty of which cannot fly (among the best known are the penguin, ostrich, emu, kiwi, and cassowary). The ostrich is the largest and heaviest living bird (some extinct prehistoric birds were even bigger).

Bats are the only mammals that can actually fly. However, there are numerous mammals that can stretch muscle-controlled folds of skin in order to glide and parachute. Among these are the sugar glider, flying squirrel, colugo, and sifaka (a primate, which is a skillful climber and powerful jumper equipped with underarm membranes and thick hair that provide lift and drag, allowing it to have at least some gliding and parachuting capability).

So yes, there really are “flying” monkeys!

“What do I need to put into my brain
To learn how to fly – to pilot a plane?”

Modern aviation was born on the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903 when Orville Wright crawled to his prone position between the wings of the biplane he and his brother Wilbur had built, opened the throttle of their homemade 12-horsepower engine, and took to the sky. He covered 120 feet in 12 seconds. Later that day, in one of four flights, Wilbur stayed up 59 seconds and covered 852 feet.

The first practical foldable silk parachute was constructed more than a hundred years earlier (in 1785) by a Frenchman named Jean Pierre Blanchard. Although early parachutes were tested from towers and cliffs, Jean Pierre claimed to be the first to use a parachute in an actual emergency (jumping from a hot air balloon that had exploded).

Pilots like to say that optimists invent better airplanes, while pessimists invent better parachutes.

My friend knew a pilot who belonged to a club
And they had an airplane – a bright yellow Cub.

The J-3 Cub is a small, simple, light aircraft that was originally built between 1937 and 1947 by Piper Aircraft. With tandem (fore and aft) seating, it was intended for flight training, but became one of the most popular and best-known light aircraft of all time. The Cub's popularity, simplicity, and affordability (earliest models were priced at $995) invokes comparisons to the Ford Model T automobile.

During World War II, 80 percent of all U.S. military pilots received their initial flight training in a Cub. At one point, wartime demand for the plane was so great that a new Cub was manufactured every twenty minutes. Generals Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, and George Marshall all used Cubs to survey European battlefields. The Civil Air Patrol flew Cubs to watch for enemy submarines operating along the U.S. coastline, and to search for survivors of u-boat attacks.

Modernized and updated versions of the Cub are still produced today by companies in Yakima, Washington and in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

The aircraft's standard chrome yellow paint has come to be known as “Cub Yellow.”

When I’d learned every lesson, they told me that I
Was cleared to take-off for my piece of the sky.

Learning to fly is a matter of acquiring aeronautical knowledge, flight proficiency, and experience. The process of earning a recreational or private pilot certificate involves a series of steps.

To begin these steps, it’s important to have common sense and the willingness to “defy gravity” in a heavier-than-air flying machine. It’s also necessary to pass a routine physical exam. Although you must be at least 16 years old to fly solo (alone), the learning process can begin at any age.

Aeronautical knowledge includes diverse and interesting subjects like aerodynamics (the science of how air moves around things), how the equipment and systems on an airplane work, what weather to avoid, federal regulations, principles of navigation, medical factors related to flying, stall/spin awareness, and National Transportation and Safety Board’s incident/accident reporting requirements. The FAA requires that you pass a knowledge test covering these subject areas with a grade of 70 percent or better.

Passing this test requires study – either on your own, through a ground school, or both. The good news is that there are books, videos, and computer training programs to help ensure that you will understand and pass the knowledge test. You do not need to be a math or science whiz, just willing to do the work that’s necessary.

Flight proficiency includes learning the skills to perform preflight preparations, take-offs and departures, in-flight maneuvers, instrument operations, communications, emergency procedures, approaches and landings, and post-flight activities. These are practiced in an actual aircraft with a certified instructor.

The final step in obtaining a pilots license is to pass a practical exam where you demonstrate the knowledge, proficiency, and experience you’ve gained.

Students as young as 9 years old have taken the controls of an airplane and completed a cross-country flight (accompanied by an instructor, of course). A few years ago, a man in Florida began his student pilot training at age 89.

So . . . you are never too young (or too old) to learn to fly!

More to come . . .

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