Click here for Graphics Version

Click here to return to the Program Guide.

Click here to return to the PlaneMath activities main page.

Header: Jimmy Doolittle

The name's Doolittle, Lieutenant James Harold Doolittle, but you can call me Jimmy. People say I did a lot of crazy things when I was a pilot, and I suppose they're right.

For a guy who did crazy things, he sure lived a long time - 97 years!

Once I flew a Curtiss P-1 aircraft in Chile with both my ankles in casts. And in 1927, I was the first person to perform the "deadly" outside loop! Some thought I'd fall straight out of the plane. But I didn't, and I'm here to tell about it.

The thing I'm most proud of, though, was being the first person to fly a plane without looking out the window, using just the ol' instrumentation. I even designed a couple of instruments myself.

Can you imagine flying without looking out the window? Pretty radical at the time! Most pilots today can fly using only instruments if they have to, like at night or in a storm. You can thank Jimmy next time you fly to Grandma's house!

Let's take a look inside the cockpit here, and I'll show you a thing or two about "flying under the hood"--that is, flying without looking out the window.

There are a lot of dials and stuff in here that tell you what's going on with your plane. You know, though, when I made that first-ever instrument-only flight, I had only a compass, an altimeter, and a attitude indicator.

The compass tells you whether the plane is heading North, South, East or West. The compass shows letters for the cardinal headings, and numbers for every 30 degree interval, from 0 to 360. To save space, though, it drops the last zero. So what does this compass read? That's right: 0 degrees due north. You can use the compass to help you stay on course.

The attitude indicator shows you the position of your plane in relation to the horizon. (What's that? You thought it told you whether you were in a bad mood? That's a different kind of attitude. Now, listen up...) In fact, the horizontal bar splitting the screen into two parts represents the actual horizon. When you're flying, another bar appears called the banking-scale indicator. Just picture it as a miniature airplane: if its right wing is tilted up, that means it's banking, or turning to the left. And if its left wing is tilted up? That's right, it's the opposite-your plane is banking to the right.

And last, but not least, is the altimeter. This instrument tells you how high your airplane is above the ground, otherwise know as your altitude. To read the altimeter you multiply the shortest hand by 10,000, the medium hand by 1,000, and the longest hand by 100. So how high are you according to this altimeter?

That's right, 4,200 ft. Now's your chance to practice.

The upcoming activity will test your skills with the altimeter. Remember: The little hand stands for the 10,000s, the medium hand stands for the 1,000s, and the big hand stands for the 100s.

Click here to go to the Altimeter activity. Note: This game will open in a new window and only works in graphics mode. It is not accessible to screen-readers.

Click here to return to the Pioneer Plane intro.