the learning never stops!



These are topics I've loosely grouped as aeronatical in nature. You will find others using the menus above.

Photo: The Governable Parachute, from Mechanics Magazine, September 25, 1852.

[Goldstone, pp. 8 - 9.] Aerodynamics as a separate science was born in 1799 when an English polymath named George Cayley produced a remarkable silver medallion. Cayley had observed that seagulls soared for great distances without flapping their wings and therefore hypothesized aircraft wings as fixed rather than movable. On the front side of his medallion, Cayley etched a monoplane glider with a cambered (curved) wing, a cruciform tail for stability, a single-seat gondola, and pedals, which he called "propellers," to power the device in flight. On the obverse side of his medallion, Cayley placed a diagram of the four forces that figure in flight: lift, drag, gravity, and thrust. Although powered flight was a century away, Cayley's construct was the breakthrough that the set the process in motion. In 1853, four years before his death, a fixed-wing glider of Cayley's design was the first to carry a human passenger.

Letters to Eddie

One of the perks of hosting this website is that I get all kinds of mail from all over the world and, in the end, it all adds up to my reservoir of knowledge. I've never considered myself a natural pilot but more a natural engineer turned pilot. Here is a letter with the engineering gift from a very young age.

Hello Eddie,

I grew up on a working farm in west central Ohio. In 1950 my father was building two barns (they are still is good shape just north of KDAY) and at the age of six my job was to pick up the 1/4" x 1/4" trimmings of the tongue and groove siding for use as kindling. I asked my father if I could have some and he asked what I was going to do with them. I simply answered, "Build somethin".

A few days later I used a hack-saw (nice fine teeth) to cut the wood pieces to matching lengths and then with VERY small brad finishing nails, I nailed together thus creating a 'stick' frame ~24" wingspan high-wing 'tail-dragger' airplane. I still have it. I looked at it recently and recognized the thought process required to fabricate and assemble this simple 'structure'.


Photo: Richard Oaks' "Stick Frame"

Click photo for a larger image

Circa 1956 Piper came out with the TriPacer. I sent and requested information. I still have the envelop and brochure. It contained, what I now know as a Top-Front-Side picture with ~3" wing span. I used a 6" steel thin ruler graduated in 1/64" and enlarged the three views to ~20" wing span. Then, fabricated ribs and bulkheads and finally using 1/64 sheet balsa wood created a scale replica. I used straight-pins to fabricate hinges for the doors AND movable control surfaces. I did not know that the rudder was controlled by foot pedals. When I opened the two doors and with a finger on each hand turned the 'steering-wheel' to the Left the rudder moved 'correctly'. And, pushed forward on the 'steering-wheel' the elevators dropped for the correct pitch action. I did not realize that there were two control surfaces on the main wing. So I missed the 'mark' for roll-control. I was sorta half-right with the flaps as I called them 'air-brakes' and moved them with a lever INSIDE the cockpit. Yes, I still have ALL the above including the envelope.


Photo: Richard Oaks' TriPaacer

Click photo for a larger image

When a senior in high school I made a Smoke Tunnel and also a Wind Tunnel. Plotted L/D curves for various airfoils and photographed the stream-lines over the same at various AOA. Missed a Superior rating at the State of Ohio Science Fair at Toledo by one point....

In Fall of 1962 I was about to enter the 'new' College of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. During my evaluation of the several Engineering Disciplines, something called Civil Engineering was an order of magnitude higher on my self made evaluation scoring scale. I was very good at it. At the conclusion of the five year Bachelor program, they made me a deal by giving me money (I was the Teaching Assistant and 'ran' the hydraulic lab) AND paying my tuition to get my Masters.

I full-filled all the requirements and shortly thereafter became a Registered Professional Engineer. You can check that at the State of Ohio Registration web site.

My father's next younger brother started flying in the mid 40's. He will be 94 this August, just passed his Class III medical, is current and flies his Piper 180HP Challenger out of L36.

In late 1970's I acquired my Private Pilot License. My sons's mother did not like flying so that took a sabbatical. About 2003 I re-took ground school so as to catch-up with anything new and started to fly again. I have VERY low hours and looking to start up ....again.

I stumbled across your web site and book by doing an Internet search for "airplane turn radius as function of velocity". I have some suggestions for the fellows at iFly GPS. I REALLY liked the Vista-Nav system, owned and used it. Was paying my subscription to Honeywell until they stopped supporting it around 2012.


Richard Oaks


Goldstone, Lawrence, Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtis, and the Battle to Control the Skies, Ballantine Books, New York, 2014.

Revision: 20180429