Aviation Merit Badge – Flying! For most of history, people have dreamed of flying, imagining how it would feel to soar through the sky like an eagle or hover in midair like a hummingbird, to float on unseen currents, free of Earth’s constant tug, able to travel great distances and to rise above any obstacle.
Today, through aviation, we can not only join the birds but also fly farther, faster, and higher than they ever could. Today, aircraft routinely fly across the country, around the world, and even beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
But our ability to fly is relatively new. It has been only in the last 100 years or so that people have mastered flight. Aviation’s progress since then has been nearly as breathtaking as a ride in the latest Air Force jet.
Aviation Merit Badge Requirement
- Do the following:
- Define “aircraft.” Describe some kinds and uses of aircraft today. Explain the operation of piston, turboprop, and jet engines.
- Point out on a model airplane the forces that act on an airplane in flight.
- Explain how an airfoil generates lift, how the primary control surfaces (ailerons, elevators, and rudder) affect the airplane’s attitude, and how a propeller produces thrust.
- Demonstrate how the control surfaces of an airplane are used for takeoff, straight climb, level turn, climbing turn, descending turn, straight descent, and landing.
- Explain the following: the sport pilot, the recreational pilot, and the private pilot certificates; the instrument rating.
- Do TWO of the following:
- Take a flight in an aircraft, with your parent’s permission. Record the date, place, type of aircraft, and duration of the flight, and report on your impressions of the flight.
- Under supervision, perform a preflight inspection of a light airplane.
- Obtain and learn how to read an aeronautical chart. Measure a true course on the chart. Correct it for magnetic variation, compass deviation, and wind drift to determine a compass heading.
- Using one of many flight simulator software packages available for computers, “fly” the course and heading you established in requirement 2c or another course you have plotted.
- Explain the purposes and functions of the various instruments found in a typical single-engine aircraft: attitude indicator, heading indicator, altimeter, airspeed indicator, turn and bank indicator, vertical speed indicator, compass, navigation (GPS and VOR) and communication radios, tachometer, oil pressure gauge, and oil temperature gauge.
- Create an original poster of an aircraft instrument panel. Include and identify the instruments and radios discussed in requirement 2e.
- Do ONE of the following:
- Build and fly a fuel-driven or battery-powered electric model airplane. Describe safety rules for building and flying model airplanes. Tell safety rules for use of glue, paint, dope, plastics, fuel, and battery pack.
- Build a model FPG-9. Get others in your troop or patrol to make their own model, then organize a competition to test the precision of flight and landing of the models.
- Do ONE of the following:
- Visit an airport. After the visit, report on how the facilities are used, how runways are numbered, and how runways are determined to be “active.”
- Visit a Federal Aviation Administration facility a control tower, terminal radar control facility, air route traffic control center, or Flight Standards District Office. (Phone directory listings are under U.S. Government Offices, Transportation Department, Federal Aviation Administration. Call in advance.) Report on the operation and your impressions of the facility.
- Visit an aviation museum or attend an air show. Report on your impressions of the museum or show.
- Find out about three career opportunities in aviation. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.
The History of Flight
The first successful manned flight took place on November 21, 1783, in Paris, France-and it did not involve an airplane.
That day, brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier sent two men up in a hot air balloon they had made out of cotton and paper. The men stayed aloft for 25 minutes and traveled about 5 miles.
From lighter-than-air balloons, early aviators progressed to the original heavier-than-air flying machines-gliders or sailplanes. In 1853, English engineer Sir George Cayley built the world’s first real glider, which carried his terrified coachman across a small valley.
Later in the century, German engineer Otto Lilienthal built a series of gliders in which he made regular, controlled flights.
Inspired by Lilienthal’s gliders, two bicycle mechanics from Ohio, Orville and Wilbur Wright, began studying aviation and experimenting with their own aircraft.
On December 17, 1903, they ushered in the aviation age when Orville took off from a sand dune near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, traveled 120 feet in 12 seconds, and landed safely. Those 12 seconds changed history.
Aviation grew quickly in the decades after the Wright brother’s historic flight. In 1909, Glenn Curtiss made headlines for flying 142 miles from New York City to Albany, New York. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1938, Howard Hughes and his crew flew around the world in just under four days.
And in 1969, Eagle Scout Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. Many people who watched Armstrong on television that day had heard about Lindbergh’s flight on the radio and read about the Wright brothers in the newspaper.
Types of Aircraft
The term aircraft is broad, covering nearly everything that enables people to fly through the air.
Some aircraft (balloons, blimps) are lighter than air others, like airplanes and helicopters, are heavier than air. (Missiles, rockets, and vehicles like the space shuttle are called spacecraft since they are designed to fly outside Earth’s atmosphere.)
Here are some of the kinds of aircraft used today. Each of these aircraft has been designed to do a particular job. You are probably already familiar with many of them.
- Commercial airliners
- Cargo airplanes (including those used by express delivery services)
- Military bombers, fighters, and surveillance aircraft
- Military supply transports
- Military and civilian helicopters and auto gyros
- Personal-use and training airplanes of various types
- Airplanes owned by corporations to transport personnel
- Balloons for sport or for exploring the atmosphere
- Sailplanes, amphibians, and seaplanes
- Blimps used for advertising in the sky and as television camera platforms
- Aerobatic airplanes for exhibitions
- Crop sprayers
- Fire fighting “smoke jumper” transports and “borate bombers”
Even if you have never boarded an airplane, your life is affected by aircraft every day. Cargo planes carry many of the packages you receive in the mail.
Helicopters make possible the traffic reports that identify trouble spots for commuters. Blimps provide bird’s-eye views of sporting events. Military jets protect the skies above your home.
Other uses of aircraft may surprise you. Helicopters can be used to dry out the field before a baseball or football game.
Hovering a few feet off the field, their giant rotors dry the surface with their powerful downwash of air, Construction companies use helicopters to “top off” tall buildings by lifting a structure’s final pieces into place. Large transport planes serve as aerial pumper trucks, fighting forest fires.
Most uses of aircraft are more familiar, such as the transportation of passengers. Aircraft make it possible for business people to attend meetings in faraway cities and return home in time for dinner.
They allow families to take vacations on the other side of the country without spending endless days in a car. Airplanes also allow people to conduct business internationally and visit other countries without taking long rides on a ship,
Geologists, surveyors, and forest rangers use helicopters and small airplanes to reach remote places.
In some large cities, helicopters make regular flights from the congested business district to the airport, greatly reducing travel time. In rural areas, small airplanes sometimes serve as taxis in areas not served by major airlines and airports.
2. Firefighting and Public Safety
The USDA Forest Service spots forest fires from airplanes as well as from lookout towers. And once a fire is spotted, aircraft swing into action.
Helicopters bring firefighters and equipment to remote areas and can extract them quickly when the need arises.
Airplanes called borate bombers to drop water or flame-retardant agents (which once included borate salts) on fires from above.
Helicopters are the unsung heroes of many rescues at sea and in rugged mountain regions. In the emergency medical field, paramedics use helicopters as air ambulances to quickly transport severely injured people from accident sites to hospitals.
3. The Military
Aircraft are among the U.S. military’s most important tools, and airpower continues to play a decisive role in conflicts around the globe. But aircraft do more than drop bombs on sites far behind enemy lines.
They also carry out surveillance, serve as flying ambulances, and transport troops and equipment. The C-17 Globemaster III can carry 170,900 pounds of cargo and fly 2,800 nautical miles without refueling.
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4. Mail and Packages
Small airplanes have been used to carry mail since aviation’s earliest days; the U.S. government started airmail service in 1918.
Even today, winged carriers of mail and supplies may be the only regular face-to-face contact some people in remote areas have with the outside world.
5. Law Enforcement
The airplane’s speed and maneuverability are valuable to many law enforcement agencies.
Federal and state law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, narcotics inspectors, and game wardens all use aircraft for patrol work, transporting officers, and chasing suspects.
Crop-spraying airplanes have been a common sight in the rural sky for many years. Today, helicopters are often used to spray crops because the “wash” from their rotors tends to distribute the spray more widely, even blowing it up to the underside of the crop’s leaves.
Airplanes haul perishable items to market and help ranchers patrol fences, herd cattle, and bring feed to animals in distant pastures.
Some farmers hire aviation companies for these services, but so much of the work is done by farmers themselves that they have formed an organization called the International Flying Farmers.
7. Aerial Photography
Aerial photography has been important for mapmakers and newsmen since the first intrepid cameraman leaned over the side of one of the early flying machines with his box camera.
Now, much filming is done from helicopters because they can furnish a stationary platform in the sky for the camera operator.
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How Airplanes Work
When people first dreamed of flying, they looked to the birds as models. Greek mythology includes the story of Daedelus and Icarus, who made wings out of wax and feathers to escape from the island of Crete. (Unfortunately, the story says, Icarus flew too close to the sun, which melted his wings)
Even as late as the 19th century, inventors were still trying to imitate birds with elaborate flying machines that never quite got off the ground.
Sir George Cayley had a better idea. His glider had fixed wings and a moveable tailplane. What it did not have was an engine-nobody had yet figured out how to make one that was light and powerful enough for aviation.
Nonetheless, his ideas led more or less directly to the 1903 Wright Flyer, to the fighter planes of World War II, and to the
massive airliners of today, To understand how an airplane works, you need to learn about several different concepts:
- The forces that affect an airplane.
- What airfoils are and how they work.
- The control surfaces a pilot can use.
- And the types of engines that give an airplane power.
For more information about airplane work, you can read the provided pamphlet.
All About Instrumentation
The first aviators flew by the seat of their pants, relying on their senses to tell them how high they were and whether they were climbing or descending.
This style of flying was pretty easy because early airplanes had open cockpits and flew both low and slow. However, as planes got faster and pilots started flying at night, they found they could not always trust their senses.
So airplane builders began adding instruments to indicate the plane’s altitude, its heading, and whether it was climbing or descending, turning or flying straight, in level flight or banking
Modern airplanes have instruments and radios to tell the pilot everything about the aircraft’s position and condition. With them, the pilot hardly has to look out the windshield to fly the plane.
That is not to say that pilots do not look outside, however. In clear skies, they rely on both their instruments and their eyes to determine the plane’s position. When flying in clouds, however, they must rely solely on instruments.
The seven flight instruments mentioned in requirement 2f :
- The attitude indicator
- Heading indicator
- Airspeed indicator
- Turn and bank indicator
- Vertical speed indicator
- And compass-tell the pilot about the plane’s altitude, speed, direction, altitude, and rate of climb or descent.
The navigation/communication radios (nav coms), discussed more in the next chapter, permit the pilot to guide the aircraft directly and safely to its destination in both clear and cloudy conditions.
The last three instruments-tachometer, oil pressure gauge, and oil temperature gauge-tell a pilot how the engine is operating. Let’s look at the flight instruments first.
1. Attitude Indicator
The attitude indicator or “artificial horizon lets the pilot get an immediate picture of the airplane’s attitude, which is its position relative to Earth’s horizon.
Attached to a gyroscope is a face with a contrasting horizon line on it. This line represents Earth’s actual horizon. A miniature airplane on the housing moves with respect to this artificial horizon, just like the real plane moves with respect to the real horizon.
The attitude indicator shows both bank (roll) attitude, which is the relationship between the wings and the horizon, and pitch attitude, which is the relationship between the nose and the horizon.
2. Heading Indicator
The heading indicator can take different forms but is basically a gyroscope that shows the plane’s heading. The simplest heading indicators have to be set to match the magnetic compass.
Others have their own compass, to which they are “slaved” (connected to and directed by the instrument), allowing the setting to be maintained automatically.
The altimeter tells the pilot how high the aircraft is flying. To steer clear of mountains, buildings, and such obstructions as television towers, the pilot must know the altitude at all times.
Charts and air traffic rules indicate the minimum heights pilots must maintain. There are also specific altitudes to fly based on the direction of flight, which reduces the risk of collisions when pilots are flying by visual flight rules in good weather.
During times of reduced visibility, pilots are assigned altitudes by air traffic control.
The altimeter is simply a barometer that measures the air pressure and converts that measurement into altitude.
Altitude references are generally above sea level, so the pilot has to know the height above sea level of the terrain or obstructions to be sure the plane is at a safe altitude.
The altimeter has a knob for adjusting the instrument to take into account changes in barometric pressure at different points of the flight as reported by weather stations.
4. Airspeed Indicator
The airspeed indicator is the airplane equivalent of a car’s speedometer, telling the pilot how fast the plane is traveling through the air.
Like the altimeter, the airspeed indicator works by measuring air pressure, but the airspeed indicator measures the plane’s impact on the air (ram air pressure).
In other words, the airspeed indicator registers the velocity of air molecules striking a sensor as the airplane moves through the air. This is translated into speed in knots, or nautical miles per hour, the standard unit of velocity used in aviation.
As a Scout, you are familiar with the magnetic compass and probably have used one many times. The compass used in aircraft is not much different, although flight poses special problems in reading a compass.
You may know that the magnetic pole is not at the North Pole, or the exact top of Earth. Instead, it is around 800 miles away, which leads to variations in determining true headings.
Second, Earth is not uniformly magnetized. In some areas, the compass may vary many degrees from magnetic north.
Finally, the metal and electrical equipment within an aircraft can throw off the compass. A pilot must consider variation and deviation, as well as wind when determining what compass reading will get the airplane to its destination.
6. Turn and Bank Indicator
The tum and bank indicator is two instruments in one. It tells the pilot when the plane is turning and how well the turn is being executed-whether there is too much or too little bank for the rate of turn.
The pilot may also check for balance and coordination in straight and level flight The turn needle always deflects in the direction of the turn and indicates the rate at which the aircraft is turning about its vertical (yaw) axis.
Most modern airplanes have a variation of this instrument called a turn coordinator. It looks a little like an attitude indicator but gives information only about turn, not about pitch attitude.
The ball part of the turn indicator is simply an agate or steel ball that moves freely inside a curved, sealed glass tube filled with liquid.
The lowest point of the glass tube is in the middle of the instrument. In straight and level flight, gravity keeps the ball there, centered between two lines. INFORM
In a turn, if the aircraft is neither slipping nor skidding, the 52e ball will be kept centered by centrifugal force.
If the aircraft were in a slip (the tail sagging into the turn), the ball would fall to the low side of the instrument. In a skid (the tail swinging wide outside the turn), the ball would be to the high side.
7. Vertical Speed Indicator
In addition to knowing the airspeed, the pilot must know how rapidly the aircraft is climbing or descending.
The vertical speed indicator, or VSI, registers how fast the barometric pressure is changing and converts this information to a speed measured in hundreds of feet per minute.
This instrument is important because it is difficult to judge rates of climb or descent using only our human senses.
In addition to the flight instruments, the tachometer, the oil pressure gauge, and the temperature gauges also tell the pilot how the plane’s engine is performing.
You may have seen a tachometer on the dashboard of a car. Its purpose is to tell the driver exactly how fast the engine is running.
In an airplane with a piston engine and a fixed-pitch propeller, the tachometer has two main purposes: to show whether the propeller is turning at the recommended speed for a particular maneuver and to indicate whether the engine is operating normally.
For example, the airplane’s designer might have determined that the best cruising speed for the engine is 2,300 revolutions per minute (rpm). so the pilot would set the throttle accordingly while cruising.
The designer would also have recommended certain rpm settings for climbing and descending
The tachometer also tells the pilot something about the engine’s condition. Suppose a pilot is preparing for flight and finds that, with the throttle open all the way. the tachometer reads only 1,800 rpm when it should read 2,400. That is a good indication something is wrong with the engine.
9. Oil Pressure Gauge
An airplane’s oil pressure gauge does the same thing as the oil pressure gauge in a car. It shows the pilot the pressure of the oil in the engine, which reveals a great deal about the health of the engine, Dropping oil pressure is a sure sign of engine trouble.
10. Temperature Gauges
The temperature gauges are another indicator of the engine’s health. They measure the temperature of oil and the cylinder heads and show whether the engine is running well, too warm, or too cold.
The instruments are generally marked with a green area and a red line. If the needle is “in the green,” that is good. If it passes the red line, there is a problem because that line marks the maximum allowable operating temperature.
Careers in Aviation
Aviation offers a nearly unlimited variety of career opportunities many of which do not directly involve airplanes.
Experts in the field estimate that for every person who flies an aircraft, there are 600 others who fill aviation-related positions. The Federal Aviation Administration has established seven categories of aviation employment.
- Pilots and flight engineers
- Flight attendants
- Airline non flying careers
- Aircraft manufacturing
- Airport careers
- Government careers
Nearly all workers in the aerospace industry must be highly skilled. Those involved in the manufacture, flying, and maintenance of aircraft and spacecraft are especially well-trained.
The quality of study and work that might give you just a passing grade will not be good enough for a position in aviation.
If you are serious about a career in aviation, you should begin planning for it when you enter high school because you may need a background in such fields as mathematics and physics.
For many positions, college degrees are necessary, again usually with an emphasis on math and science. Depending on the career you want to pursue, you may choose a college that offers a specialized aviation program.
In addition, many commercial pilots earn their wings as members of the U.S. armed forces. Your guidance counselor can help you learn more about how to prepare for an aviation career.
The FAA offers several publications detailing aviation career areas. For information, visit the FAA Web site, or write to the Superintendent of Documents, Retail Distribution Division Consigned Branch, 8610 Cherry Lane.
Laurel, MD 20707 For more information on aviation-related university studies. contact the University Aviation Association