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Q. Nineteenth-century British inventor William Hale and your favorite football quarterback have something in common. What is it?

Draft a response of no more than 250 words and email it by midnight Eastern time on Sept. 9 to aeropuzzler@aiaa.org.


FLYING INVERTED: We asked you whether Capt. Whip Whitaker’s decision to invert his airliner in the movie “Flight” would be worth a shot in a real-world emergency.

FROM THE EDITORS: We agreed with reviewer Mark Guynn of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia that none of your responses fully addressed the question, and we take responsibility for that. In hindsight, we should have asked why inverting an actual airliner likely would or would not increase odds of surviving a nose-down emergency.

We expected your responses to analyze the crash of Alaska Airlines 261 in which the captain and first officer inverted their MD-83 to buy time to fight its uncommanded nose-down pitch, but could not retain control. The captain voiced, “gotta get it over again … at least upside down we’re flying.” Within seconds, the engines were heard stalling and spooling down, and the plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, killing all 88 aboard. While there is no definitive right or wrong answer, this outcome suggests to us that inverting an airliner probably would not improve odds of survival.

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