Sunday, April 29, 2007
On a wing and a prayer, again
Somewhere over America, March 2007 [Click to make Jumbo]
The Boeing 757-200 has a maximum take-off weight of 255,000 pounds, which means the sinuously sleek sliver of technology in this image is holding up approximately 127,500 pounds of airplane, fuel, luggage, and me.
I understand at an intimate level how this thing works. I am fully conscious of the unbelievable resources it takes to design one of these things, and the frightening amount of strength and flexibility built into it. Yet it never ceases to be a magical moment when the throttles open up and the plane begins its takeoff roll. First we hit V1 (the point of no return), then VR (rotation of the nose off the runway) and then finally the entire bird hauls itself off the surface of the earth.
For all the noise and bluster of the engines, it's basic aerodynamics that takes over once you've got enough speed, the difference between higher pressure under the wing and lower pressure above it that provides the lift needed to get and stay in the sky. And as I stare out the window at the wing, I smile silently in the knowledge that it's doing its job so that everyone else on the plane can think about something else. Well, everyone except me.
Your turn: Flight...science or magic?
One more thing: This isn't the first time I've explored a wing with my camera (click here and here.) I guess I'm certifiable when it comes to photos of this type.
Oops, make that two more things: I know what you're thinking; a 757 with winglets? (Come on, doesn't everybody?) Well, it turns out that the FAA has certified a retrofit kit for 757-200s that adds these vortice-reducing, lift-enhancing, drag-reducing and range-increasing devices to the original, conventional wingtips. For more background on these brilliant advances in the aviation state-of-the-art, click on the Aviation Partners, Inc. web site. Or e-mail me and I'll explain the theory. Either way, it's fascinating. Well, if you're an aviation geek.