Ask Dr. Sachs a Question

Do small airplanes have the same controls as airliners?
Yes and no. The main external flight controls do appear on virtually all airplanes. These include ailerons (to help the airplane “roll,” like a clock’s hands roll around its center), elevators (to help the airplane’s nose point up or down), flaps (to help the airplane fly slower – good for landing – and in some cases to increase lift), and a rudder (to help the nose of the airplane move left and right in flight). However, airliners may have additional controls like speed brakes (helping the large airplane slow down) and “Fowler” flaps (that work like small-airplane flaps but are much more effective – and expensive).
What do the runway numbers mean?
Let me start with what they don’t mean: Runway numbers don’t refer to how many runways the airport has. The runway numbers refer to the magnetic alignment (remember that a circle has 360 degrees?) of the runway on the earth. Runway 27 is a runway where the airplane would head 270 degrees to take off. For example, Runway 17 at the Aurora State Airport in Oregon is just one physical, runway, not 17 separate runways. Since airplanes can take off in the opposite direction of this strip of concrete, the same physical runway is also Runway 35 (the magnetic heading exactly opposite of 17). Also, some runways have “R,” “C,” or “L” in their names. These mean Right, Center, and Left. This happens if the runways are parallel.
Sometimes I see a small airplane flying with its landing gear (wheels and struts) down, and other times they are not showing. What’s going on?
Some airplanes, called “fixed-gear” airplanes, have the landing gear down all the time. It’s just the design of the airplane. Airplanes like this tend to be a little less expensive but may not be able to go as fast as similar airplanes with “retractable” gear. “Retracts” only have their gear down during taxiing, when taking off, and when landing. So if you see a retractable-gear airplane in the air with its landing gear down, it is probably landing or taking off.
Are private pilots allowed to fly at night?
Fully-licensed private pilots in the United States are allowed to fly at night. Their training includes several night-flying techniques so enable them to do so safely. Still, small airplanes (or private airplanes) sometimes are prohibited from flying at night: Pilots with Sport Pilot and Recreational Pilot certificates (these are lower than Private Pilot certificate) may not fly at night (under some highly-restrictive conditions, controlled by a Certified Flight Instructor, some Recreational Pilots may fly at night), and some countries (like Mexico) do not permit night flight for small/private airplanes. You may want to have a look at this great website from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association about most of these differences:
Don’t Pilots have to talk with air traffic control?
Most people take it for granted that pilots must communicate over the radio with ATC (air traffic control). After all, how else can airplanes know what to do and when to do it? The fact is, for private pilots, there are lots of situations where no communication with ATC is required or even possible. (For airline pilots and others taking passengers for hire, communication with ATC is required whenever possible.) Read More Here
What is the difference between VFR and IFR flying?
When a person first learns to fly airplanes, this pilot-to-be is trained to fly under what is called VFR.  This is an acronym for Visual Flight Rules. Although there are multiple competencies a VFR pilot must master, the area of expertise the general public associates most with piloting aircraft is the actual act of flying.  This includes manipulating the flight controls to make the airplane take off, turn, climb, descend, and land.  Sure, there is lots more but this is the most common idea. Read More Here