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  • feedwordpress 08:01:56 on 2014/05/26 Permalink
    Tags: aircraft, , Astronaut, aviation history, , Sally Ride, , worst airplane   

    “Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss”*… 


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    The Christmas Bullet – with unsupported wings intended to flap like a bird’s – is widely regarded as the worst aircraft design in history (US Government)

    It’s more than 110 years since mankind first took to the air in a powered aircraft. During that time, certain designs have become lauded for their far-sighted strengths – the Supermarine Spitfire; Douglas DC-3 Dakota; or the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner, to name a few.

    But then there are planes like the Christmas Bullet. Designed by Dr William Whitney Christmas, who was described by one aviation historian as the “greatest charlatan to ever see his name associated with an airplane”, this ”revolutionary”prototype biplane fighter had no struts supporting the wings; instead, they were supposed to flap like a bird’s. Both prototypes were destroyed during their first flights – basically, because Christmas’s “breakthrough” design was so incapable of flight that the wings would twist off the airframe at the first opportunity.

    Just as many of the world’s most enduring designs share certain characteristics, the history of aviation is littered with disappointing designs. Failures like Christmas’s uniquely unflyable aircraft often overlooked some fairly simple rules…

    The Douglas TBD Devastator was a death-trap; it could only release its torpedo flying in a straight line whilst dawdling at 115mph – making it easy to shoot down. (US Navy)

    The Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet was the only rocket fighter to enter service; pilots only had three minutes’ worth of fuel and had to glide back to base. (Baku13/Wikimedia)

    See additional airborne accidents-waiting-to-happen at “World’s worst planes: The aircraft that failed.”

    * Douglas Adams

    ###

    As we fuel our fear of flying, we might send soaring birthday greetings to Sally Kristen Ride; she was born on this date in 1951.  Trained as a physicist, Ride became an astronaut after responding to a newspaper ad in 1977; she was the first American woman to orbit the earth when she flew aboard Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983.  (She was preceded into space by two Russian women.)  She remains the youngest American astronaut ever to go to space.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:36 on 2014/05/05 Permalink
    Tags: Amy Johnson, aviation history, David McDonagh, , , Miley Cyrus, , , , wrecking ball   

    “Everybody’s a critic”*… 


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    In her latest hit, Miley Cyrus sings that she “came in like a wrecking ball.”  David McDonagh, a third-year natural sciences student at The Centre for Interdisciplinary Science at University of Leicester, did the math and concluded that it’s probably a bad idea to literally smash someone’s walls with your body:

    An ordinary wrecking ball is a massive, incredibly durable object. It has to be to break down the buildings and structures we take so much time putting up. An average ball could be anywhere from 1,000 to 7,000 kilograms of solid metal. The material helps, but what really gets the work done is the swinging. When you swing a massive object, it gains a lot of momentum. And when that momentum suddenly changes—when the ball hits a wall—a huge amount of force is produced. That’s what makes it through concrete and steel and brick. So how good a wrecking ball would Miley be?

    Miley is nowhere near as heavy as an average wrecking ball, so to produce the same momentum, she would have to come in incredibly fast. Assuming she weighed 125 pounds, she would have to come in like a wrecking ball at over 390 miles per hour to generate the same momentum.

    And what happens when this Miley ball hits a wall? Assuming a rapid deceleration, Miley pulls 350 G’s impacting the wall with over 198,000 Newtons—a force equivalent to getting hit with all the force rocketed out of a 747 engine at once.

    If Miley really did come in like a wrecking ball, she would never again hit so hard in love, because she’d be dead.

    Read more at Discover, and read David’s paper, “The viability of coming in like a wrecking ball,”  Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, here.

    * cliche (c.f., here)

    ###

    As we have second thoughts about our similes, we might  recall that it was on this date in 1930 that Amy Johnson left Croydon, south of London, on on a flight to Darwin, becoming the first female pilot (or in the language of the time, “aviatrix”) to fly solo from England to Australia, a journey of 11,000 miles.  She had learned to fly only a little more than a year before.

    The first British-trained women qualified as a ground engineer, she went on to set a number of long-distance flying records in the 30s, both solo and flying with her husband, Jim Mollison.  She flew in the Second World War as a part of the Air Transport Auxiliary, where she died during a ferry flight in 1941.

    The second-hand de Havilland DH.60 Gipsy Moth she bought to make the Australia flight is on display in London’s Science Museum.

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