Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Back to School, but for how long?

The meeting with the aviation program administrator that was scheduled for Wednesday night was rescheduled for last night. I was expecting to have to jump around between different classes as they came available, and it looks like that's the way it's going to be. He told us that the school has determined that they will only run a class if they can get at least four students in it. Even then, they take a financial loss for that class, but they're willing to do it to keep people in the program. Problem is, the three younger guys in the class are moving to day classes next quarter, and the older guy has had almost all of the other classes. I'm all alone next quarter!

Well, not entirely. Apparently there is a student that is very close to graduating, but needs one more class. He needs environmental systems, so they're thinking of offering it Spring quarter and letting me jump in, despite having none of the pre-requisites. I'm not at all worried about that and don't think I'll have any trouble keeping up, although it does concern me a bit that I'll be missing the first week of classes. I'll have some catching up to do. It's also not a subject that is applicable to my interests as the owner of a small, relatively simple airplane (environmental control in my plane is open/close a vent) but that was going to happen sooner or later anyway. So, I'm keeping an open mind and will take whatever they offer whenever they offer it. He did ask if I could attend four nights a week (the other choice on some of the more in-depth classes is to split the class across two quarters); I told him no, I couldn't do that and still work my way through six grade math again with co-pilot Egg.

Once we got through his visit and a quiz on micrometers, we moved on to the last of the precision measurement devices on the curriculum. We talked about dial indicators, which look more like an old pocket watch than a measurement tool. Basically, they have a stem that is placed against a (nominally) flat surface. As the surface is rotated, the dial indicator will show any warping or bends in the surface. This is useful for determining if a crankshaft is bent, or if the flange that the propellor is bolted to is warped. Being a small night class, we were able to go to the engine lab and try it out on a couple of crankshafts they had lying around.

After that we started on our next topic, which is aircraft materials. We're starting with metals. Typical of the FAA approach to learning new things, we started out by talking about definitions of the qualities of metals. We talked about hardness, ductility, malleability, tension and compression loads, and shear loads. We also got into the topics of work hardening and annealing. Work hardening is something you can see for yourself pretty simply: just get a coat hangar and keep bending it back and forth. Eventually the metal where you're bending will get hard and brittle, and more than likely, break. This work hardening can be reversed by the process of applying heat, which is called annealing. This is pretty basic, but also pretty important, stuff. The next topic will probably be alloys, and how each particular alloy has different properties.

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