Pete the PilotScience brain teasers require understanding of the physical or biological world and the laws that govern it.
Adrenaline was coursing through his body. Our hero, Pete the Pilot, has so far survived a harrowing flight in his small, single-engine airplane, but he isn't home yet. After a long flight fighting his way through unexpectedly wicked weather, his destination is finally in sight.
"Almost there," he assures himself as he looks at the ground moving past a mile below him. He wipes the beaded sweat off of his brow as he lines his plane up to the runway that just emerged in the distance. Five miles to go now. Just as he thought, "Maybe I'll make it through this yet," the sobering sound of his sputtering engine filled Pete's ears, followed by silence. The comforting hum of the engine was now replaced by the sound of his pounding heart. His engine failed five miles from the airport! After a quick check of his fuel gauges, he knows he won't be able to restart the engine. Our hero doesn't have a parachute, yet he was able to survive the ordeal without even a scratch on him. How did he do it?
AnswerPete the Pilot simply glided the aircraft the remaining five miles and landed on the runway without incident. Contrary to what many may think, planes won't fall like rocks without their engines. In fact, most can glide very well. Most typical airplanes have a glide ratio around 10:1, meaning the plane will fly 10 feet forward for every one foot it descends, without the help of an engine. (For example, the Cessna 172, perhaps the most common small single-engine plane, has a glide ratio ranging from 8:1 to as high as 13:1, while the 747 'Jumbo Jet' is around 15:1.) In this scenario, Pete only needed roughly a 5:1 glide ratio, one his small plane should easily be able to achieve.
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