The BAC Board of Directors are constantly swinging emails back and forth talking about everything under the sun. Today was no exception and the topic was Spaceship One and the Ansari X-Prize contest. Cloyd offered up a challenge. I’m offering a prize of one million (1,000,000, count ’em) bottles of Dos Equis XX to the first person that flies a Mouse into outer space. I figured I’d take my best shot and here is what I came up with in such short notice.Well, I fired up the X-Plane flight simulator to give this a try. As it should the Sport topped out around 12,500 feet and refused to climb any higher. BUT, you can PLACE your aircraft wherever you would like, at whatever airspeed, at any altitude as your starting point.
X-Plane supports accurate representations of atmosphere and flight model from anywhere on earth all the way to Mars. So I put the Sport at 355,000 feet over Chicago and set it up for level flight and 85kts. Well, being that the Sport doesn’t have a pressurized cabin I blacked out within a couple of seconds due to lack of oxygen. Good thing you can turn off that feature, reset, and I’m good to go again.
Back at 355,000 feet again and things are good… except I’m doing very fast aileron rolls. Gyroscopic Precession! Yes, the prop is spinning around and Newton says that the plane must spin around the opposite way. Since there isn’t any air up there the vertical stabilizer does nothing to keep me upright… Ailerons don’t help any either. So I tumble along in space slowly (20,000 ft/min) falling towards earth. I shut down the engine so the speed of my rolls does not increase further.
The GPS says my ground-speed is about 500 knots but the airspeed indicator still reads zero…. There isn’t enough air for it to read anything! So I keep spiraling along. I keep thinking the wings will rip off due to my high speed (they will fail under too high of a G-load in “normal” conditions) but then I realize there really isn’t any force being applied to them even though I’m spinning around at 500kts since there isn’t any air to force against them!
I start to plan my attack to get back to ground. I’m now at about 150,000 feet when FINALLY the airspeed indicator shows something more than zero. 20kts. GPS still says I’m going about 500. If there is enough air to read an airspeed then there might be enough air to stop these constant aileron rolls. I turn the yoke all the way and within about a minute I’ve stopped the roll.
I pitch the nose WAY down to build up airspeed. The more airspeed I have the more I should be able to control this poor sport cruising along at nearly the speed of sound. I keep it at about 110kts indicated and have good aileron control now.
From here the trick is that as you descend more and more you encounter thicker and thicker air. So as I descend I gradually need less nose down to maintain the same indicated airspeed since there is more air to run into. Fun, Fun!
Now I’m about 40,000 feet up and I can start to make out the ground through the cirrus layer still below me. I find KSBD below me and dial in the NDB/OM and the ILS frequency into Nav1. I start to maneuver towards the OM. I pass over the OM at 15,000 feet, go out a few miles, then make a turn back towards the runway and intercept the localizer.
I pass over the OM at about 9,000 feet inbound for KSBD 06. WAAAY to high normally, but remember I shut down my engine back at 355,000 feet. The prop started to windmill at about 75,000 feet but there is still no power. I’m high and fast anyway so no need to turn it on. I continue down the approach and with the headwind and a slip I still might make it down to the runway.
I maintain 120kts (obviously no flaps) and a very fast descent rate. I cross the threshold at about 100 feet AGL and 110kts. I use up a good amount of runway before touching down, but once I do I come to a SCREECHING halt. Guess the tires all popped due to the lack of air pressure at 355,000 feet! All survived though! The tower yells at me for coming in unannounced but thanks me for keeping my speed up on final. 🙂