So if I flew up into a cloud...

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choppergirl

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I've been glued to a computer screen most of the day posting to Facebook, and it was really irking me, so I was like, ugh, I got to get outside and see some of the day, before it's over.

So I went outside and sat on my little swing out in the yard.





And I was looking at this one cloud. It was such a gorgeous cloud. And I started to think...

"What if I were some black woman 200 years ago, in colonial America, right in this very field that use to be a cotton field, picking cotton out in the hot sun, trapped inside a plantation culture forever far away from the civilization that was Europe, looking up at these very clouds. Surely trapped in my brutal life, I would think it was some kind of glorious heaven up there.... some promised land... that I was destine for... some day when I died... and was finally free..."




And I sat there and thought... hmm, if I were drop everything right now, and run out to air field, never losing sight of that cloud, keeping my eye on it, and hop in my ultralight, and fly up, in climbing circles until I reached that cloud... I would be sorely disappointed... that it was just... water vapor.

Nevertheless, I would want to fly briefly through the top of it, just to say and know... and to... be there. From the moment I saw it on the swing, to the moment I flew up to that very cloud and flew through the top of it... like making a wistful daydream come true.



It occurred to me immediatly, I wouldn't have an attitude indicator. Working good aircraft grade Attitude Indicators are *very expensive*, so they are way, way down my list of things to try and score on the cheap someday.

To fly into a cloud, even for a minute without one, either accidentally or intentional, probably would be a dangerous proposition, as I'd no longer have visual reference to anything like the ground or sun or space above.

So what could I do in such an emergency? And then I though...

A string off my jacket, with a weight on it. Or even dangling some keys. If I keep them out of the wind, they will always point straight to the ground, and as long as I were to hold them straight over my er... crotch... and look straight down at them, and correct for deviations, and keep them from shaking or being blown around too much, I could maintain a relatively straight and level flight until I came out on the other side...

~



Everybody has seen the ubiquitous "yarn on the windshield" yaw indicator... so I present to you, my daft emergency "in a pinch" attitude indicator.... nothing really beyond an (ideally) heavy steel ball on some string... (or better, fishing line, low wind resistance).

In this case, to emphasis the quick and improvised solution of using whatever might be in my pocket... a nut tied with the string that held two foam ear plugs (but it could be anything you had):






So if you can't afford a Mid Continent Lifesaver Gyro at $4000, and all your instruments black out, I hope you'll remember this silly little rudimentary attitude indicator.... :) Like I said, hold it over your crotch to center it, with one hand, or your teeth if necessary if you need both hands. Or get Maxwell Smart and tie it to something ;-) It probably will wiggle and move around in pendulum circles a lot from the vibrations, but you should be able to visually guestimate an average center position between all the swinging, and it should show you any gross deviations from level flight...
 
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TFF

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No because in a turn that string will be fighting gravity and the false gravity the airplane is making in the turn; it would not be accurate. One of my company pilots flew into a cloud not by purpose but was gobbled up by one by an approaching storm. We operate VFR helicopters. Light helicopters are not IFR certified anyway. Pilot not IFR licenses although you have to get basic IFR training for the Commercial License. Well he got ate up by this cloud and he turned to fly out and he screwed it up. Aircraft does have an attitude indicator and 90% of IFR equipment anyways. He turned and did not look at the indicator and when he broke out he was diving at the ground. Luckily he had enough altitude because we fly low for the job. He is pretty gun shy on that stuff now. A fast airplane punching through a cloud in 3-4 seconds no big deal. Spend 30 seconds in there and you don't know what is up, plus the bumps you get going in; if you are just gazing out the side will throw your internal clock out.
 

Autodidact

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Choppergirl, some one will correct me if I'm wrong, but...it won't work. That thing will get vertigo just like your own inner ear mechanism will. You can get into a tight death spiral and the weight on a string will indicate normal just like in level flight. I think you have to get sensitive to how many gs your pulling and also either take note of the revs or what your airspeed indicator says; if you're going too fast and you pull up to reduce speed, then you are in a level turn, and if you bank the aircraft and the gs increase, you need to bank the other way. People have flown into clouds and lived without sophisticated modern instruments, but even with some skill they were lucky...it's not easy even with a turn and bank indicator and airspeed indicator. An artificial horizon makes it very doable but even then you have to fool yourself into absolutely believing that the picture on the instrument is the actual horizon. I've given a very simplistic explanation of this part of the discipline, but it's been a long time since I've been current - someone else can explain this much better than I.
 

choppergirl

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Well, I'm thinking its better than nothing, and as long as I can keep the weight centered, and not deviate too much off from that, it should keep me level enough to get out of the cloud. Yes, centripital/centrifugal force of a turn, or change in acceleration is going to throw it off... hopefully you can sort of sense that though with your inner ear gyro and sense a change in velocity and acceration versus... the lack of such a sensation which means your weight really is indication just a deviation in attitude...

In a pinch, what else can you do? Search for the sun through the clouds as a frame of reference? The clouds kind of diffuse the sun. So I'm not sure.

No warranties expressed or implied. :) Maybe someone who is bored next time when they are flying, can make a video and show when such a thing might work, and under what amount of turning, or increasing and decreasing speed, it totally wouldn't be any longer any even close to anything accurate indication of where "down" is...

I know if the string is pointing up at your nose, you're either inverted, or in an outside loop ;-) That at least tells me I'm not where I want to be...

If you lose the delicate balance of a lock on your cross hairs, yeah, you probably are !@%&, because its going to be very to get it back. But it should be possible to hold that lock, because whichever way the center average of the weight swings (disregarding all the pendulum motion swinging about), you need to move the stick slowly in the opposite direction to counteract.

Someone feel free to test it out against hard reality in real world use, while you are safely flying about and not inside a cloud... I know in a car, anything tied to the rear view mirror tends to move around quite wildly and quite a bit with all the bumps, changes in direction, and accelerations and decelerations... in a plane trying to fly straight and level I assume you won't be grossly changing your airspeed though or intentionally trying to make a turn. You also have the center of your stick kind of as reference.
 
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Dan Thomas

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Get this clearly: it will not work. If it worked, we wouldn't be spending thousands of dollars on expensive gyroscopic instruments. Gyros are fixed in space and are not affected by gravity other than for the erecting valves that get it level when the gyro starts up. Your nut-on-a-string will point right at the target in a coordinated turn, and if there's any acceleration or deceleration, it won't indicate pitch properly either. For instance, if you pull up, the speed will decay and the nut will move forward, indicating nose-down. Completely wrong.

One of the big killers in aviation is the VFR pilot (visual flight rules) who, while flying in VMC (visual meteorological conditions) but who doesn't want to turn around when he encounters some cloud. That's IMC, instrument meteorological conditions). He wants to get home, so he flies into it, hoping (wishful thinking) that it's only a short distance through it and everything will be clear in just a minute. He starts feeling that the airplane is turning (he can't see the horizon and his brain hasn't been conditioned to scan the instruments and believe them and cross-check them to make sure none of them are lying to him) so he makes the wrong moves and ends up, usually in a spiral dive. Very often the last thing he sees is the ground coming at him at high speed. This whole thing takes, on average, less than three minutes. From VFR to death in that time.

Your inner ear relies on your eyes for cross-checking, and your body also has inputs by sensing weight shifting on your feet or butt. Take away two of those (the weight shift, as we have seen is unreliable) and the visual, you are left with the inner ear, which is easily confused by small motions when the other inputs are gone or giving false information.
 

Pops

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No, not better than nothing, it is nothing. I can put you in the right seat in an airplane and in about 2 minutes you will not be able to tell upside down from right side up.
If you HAVE to come down through a cloud layer and you know the bottom of the cloud layer in a thousand feet or more above the highest terrain or obstacle and if you only have a compass, turn to 180 deg heading where the compass is most sensitive, trim for low speed decent, keep the heading with rudder only so you will not over control , your life depends on it.
 

choppergirl

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Well, I was thinking it may be a matter of reading what it is telling you with a little more lattitude.

For example, if your plane started to bank left, and you entered a left turn, and the force of the turn made the string point to the right of the crosshairs, instead of the left... you would incorrectly think... whoa, I am banking right, better correct by applying more left.

This would be the reverse of what you would want to do, and the string would point even more to the right, as your turn worsened.

So if you were quick on your toes, you might think, whoa, that didn't work, its making it worse, I must be banking the opposite direction and I'm seeing the force of that work on the string, so I better instead push the stick in the direction the string is pointing, to make it go back towards center.

In other words, there is no absolute "always push in the opposite direction the string is pointing to correct". You want to instead consider all forces that may be involved, both gravity pulling down on it, and the force of a turn that may be acting on your plane and moving the string, and push your stick in whatever direction that makes the string move its way back to center. That may be away from the direction the string is pointing, or it may be towards the direction of the string is pointing, depending on which force is working on it more strongly, gravity or centrifugal/centripal force (like most people, I get those two confused).

And obviously, the string hanging horizontally to you in any direction or above that, is a Bad Thing(tm).
 

Pops

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Everybody except Chuck Yeager agrees with you, Pops.


BJC
You are correct. I live close to where Chuck is from. Also know some of his family. Been around him at the local airport. You are very much right. Don't think about anyone would disagree with you.
 

Jerry Lytle

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The only real bust I ever saw in an Ernie Gann movie was of a mailplane pilot dangling a whisky bottle on a string and successfully using this attitude indicator to descend through the storm.
I assume it was the director's error, not Erbie's.
 

Hot Wings

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Ok, lets make this thread interesting. I remember this discussion popping up a couple of decades ago on RAH. We all know that the dumb nut on a string is worthless. But what happens when you have a pair of them and set one swinging fore and aft and another swinging sideways? Maybe a third swinging around in a circle?

How is each going to react? Is the human mind developed enough to use what they tell us?

My brain already hurts........................... :lex:
 

Aerowerx

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Remember what happened to John Kennedy off of Martha's Vineyard? He had a panel full of IFR stuff.

Google "balanced turn", CG.
 

StarJar

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I think what Choppergirl doesn't understand..is that there is no side force when an airplane 'turns'. When a car turns you feel a side force, not so in an airplane, (because of the bank). That's the whole thing behind vertigo.
The others have said this, I'm just trying to explain it another way.
Edit..Dangle it on your motorcycle, and you will see the nut also stays centered, much to our chagrin as humans who have to shell out bucks for instruments.
 

Dan Thomas

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No, not better than nothing, it is nothing. I can put you in the right seat in an airplane and in about 2 minutes you will not be able to tell upside down from right side up.
I think it's worse than nothing. It's a system guaranteed to mislead you into losing control.

When I was instructing, the first thing some of us did when starting someone on their IFR rating was to put the hood on them (so they could see nothing but the instrument panel) and tell them to do something like "hold this airspeed and altitude." They fixate on the airspeed and altimeter, and the airplane would start banking into a spiral or some other maneuver as the pilot felt someting and tried to correct for it. You'd tell him to look up and outside when it was sufficiently far gone to convince him that he was no smarter than any other human and didn't know squat about IFR flying. My instructor pulled that on me when I learned; very convincing.
 

bmcj

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[video=youtube;V9pvG_ZSnCc]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9pvG_ZSnCc[/video]
%{£<^>*, you beat me to it!


Choppergirl, some one will correct me if I'm wrong, but...it won't work. That thing will get vertigo just like your own inner ear mechanism will. You can get into a tight death spiral and the weight on a string will indicate normal just like in level flight.
That's why you also have to take the cat and duck along with you. :gig:
 
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