Can Insects Effect Aircraft’s Aerodynamic Efficiency?

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Watch out colliding traffic!

No, it is not another airplane on a collision path with you, these are the tiny winy flying insects.

These are something which cannot be detected by even the best of flight radars (as of now). They are invisible to naked eye until they collide with your airplane and there debris forms a small black mark on the windshield or wings leading edge of airplane.

Leave aside other airplanes or birds flying with you in air, these flying insects can be just as lethal as any other flying object whether manmade or living.

Aerodynamic Efficiency

The scene is Air Race Classic held in June at Maine’s Eastern Slope Regional Airport. A crowd is waiting at the ramp for the race team to appear.

The place soon turned into a beehive of activity as the racers, in Cessna Skyhawks to Cirrus SR20s, arrived.

A bit surprise, observers noticed that one of the first chores of activities some of the racers performed as their aircraft was refueled was to wipe down the wings’ leading edge. The purpose was to remove bug-collision remnants.

Racers or better say experienced pilots are well aware of the loss in aircraft performance due these insects. You as a student pilot should take note of the effect these insects cause to aerodynamic efficiency or in flying.

Some observers may reason that some pilots just want to tidy up their birds for the audience including media, however, this is not exactly the case.

For these racer pilots anything that slows down their flying bird is their enemy.

It is not just the aerodynamic efficiency that is effected, but a stealthy insect invasion can also lead to engine failure. These bugs can block fuel or air flow which can starve the running engine to stop.

Climbing to a safer altitude promptly is the way out and you as a pilot should have a plan of where to land if trouble hatches.

Wasps and insects can also block pitot tubes, pushing you into a dangerous condition. If possible ask your instructor to make you fly the traffic pattern without reference to airspeed indicator.

Hopefully, the CFI had practices the same at the first place.

Even if these insects do not malign aircraft’s flight instruments, they can be quite distracting as well.

You must have been distracted at some point when a bee fly in your car window. Same distraction can be caused in air.

In 2010, a motorglider accident happened in Oregon.

The National Transportation Safety Board noticed a wasp nest in the cockpit air inlet. The wasps were disturbed as the glider took off and entered the cockpit.

Point to be noted here – It is difficult to detect an insect in an aircraft system, it is only your piloting skills that will take you out of an emergency.

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