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Why We Call Pilots “Pilots” Why Not Drivers ?

The term “drive” refers to driving horses, mules or oxen. Drive meaning to push forward the animal. In the days of horse drawn cariages, the driver would be in charge of the vehicle. A car is a horseless carrage and so borrowed from the horse terminology.


The trem “pilot” means to guide direction. We had pilots prior to air travel, for example a boat or ship may have a pilot. A ship pilot is in charge of plotting the course and navigation decisions. A ship coming into a harbour will take on a harbour pilot to guide the ship into port.

Since aircraft were never htiched up to a horse, it would have been odd to use the word “driver” to refer to the operator. An aircraft pilot does do the job of navigating. In addition, the first aircraft were not fixed wing planes, but balloons and airships. The airship crews borrowed much of their terminology and methods of operation from ships.

In some early media, aircraft crews are refered to a “aeronauts” in a similar way as we today talk anout astronauts in space. The word “aeronautic” is still commonly used to refer to things related to flight.

Thus we drive a car, truck, carrage or herd of animals but we pilot a plane, boat, ship or spacecraft.

ILS-Instrument Landing System

What is an ILS?

An ILS is a highly accurate radio signal navigation aid used by pilots landing at an airport when there is poor weather and/or low visibility. It consists of two antennas which transmit signals to receivers in the aircraft cockpit—a glide path tower located next to the runway at the northern end and a localiser antenna at the southern end. These antennas provide the pilot with vertical and horizontal guidance when landing in low visibility.

An ILS may be used outside these conditions as a preferred approach particularly for international operators. It may also be used by some aircraft at night and there will be occasions where aircraft and airlines require the ILS approach for licensing and training requirements.

ils_web1How the localiser and glide path work together to provide vertical and horizontal guidance to pilots

How will an ILS improve flight reliability?

Gold Coast Airport is operating safely without an ILS and the public can continue to travel by air with confidence. An ILS enables airlines and airports to continue operations in low visibility conditions, such as heavy rain and very low cloud. This will increase the reliability of landing at the airport. In any weather conditions, pilots must be able to see the runway before landing.

Installing an ILS at Gold Coast Airport will reduce the decision altitude or height at which a pilot must make the decision to continue with the landing with the runway in sight or to go-around or divert because the runway is obscured by cloud. An ILS will reduce the decision height, or minima, from 500 feet to 280 feet, improving the chance of landing in poor weather. However, an ILS will not guarantee a landing in all weather—the decision to land in poor weather is ultimately up to the pilot-in-command.

Why is an ILS proposed for Gold Coast Airport?

An ILS was foreshadowed in Gold Coast Airport’s 2011 Master Plan which outlines key infrastructure and capability needs over the next 20 years to meet air traffic growth.

An ILS is a well-established and proven technology used around the world. All commercial aircraft currently flying into the airport are able to make use of ILS technology to assist with landing in low visibility. Increasingly, aircraft are also able to use satellite-assisted technologies, such as Smart Tracking, which was permanently introduced at the Gold Coast in late 2014.

Why is the proposed ILS being installed on Runway 14?

The ILS is proposed to be installed on Runway 14 as about two-thirds of flights to Gold Coast Airport land from this direction each year due to prevailing winds in the area. Runway 14 is also the airport’s preferred runway and is used by aircraft landing from the north. Airlines were also consulted about the decision on which runway to install the ILS.

What is the difference between ILS and Smart Tracking?

Smart Tracking is satellite-assisted navigation technology allowing aircraft to fly with greater accuracy and can assist in allowing an aircraft to land in low visibility conditions. At the Gold Coast, Smart Tracking allows aircraft to approach Runway 14 from the south and north with the majority of the flight path over the water before making a final approach for landing. Smart Tracking at Gold Coast Airport has a decision altitude or minima—where the pilot must be able to see the runway to continue with the landing—of 500 feet.

In comparison, the proposed ILS will provide a minimum decision altitude of 280 feet and will improve the predictability of landing at the airport in low visibility conditions.

What are the little tabs near the leading edge of an airplane’s wing?

They are called Vortex generators. They create little vortices, that makes the air flow more turbulent. Turbulent air has more kinetic energy than smooth laminar air. This kinetic energy then gets mixed with the air flow over the wing surface giving an extra boost to the boundary layer. An energised boundary layer has a much delayed separation over the surface compared to a low energy layer. The result is that the aircraft can be operated at high angles of attack without a risk of a stall.

We also have slats right in front of the wing. When slats are extended, it creates a slot, which makes the air to flow through it. This additional air again increases the energy of the flow, attaching the separated air at the trailing edge of the airfoil. If we look at the overall suction profile over a wing at a considerable angle of attack without the slats, we would see a very large peak near the centre of pressure of the wing and a constantly reducing peak near the trailing edge. This is because there is air flow separation near the end of the wing.


Now, if we extend the slats and then observe the suction, we would see a much more even pressure distribution without a significant peak. This is because of the slats reattaching air flow at the trailing edge. The effect of slats hence is the same as the vortex generators, allows the aircraft to reach higher angles. The slats move the centre of pressure very little, so, there is no significant pitch changes due to their movement.