December 17, 2003

100 Years of Flight

Many of the bloggers I follow on a daily basis have appropriate words to commemorate the monumental accomplishment of the Wright brothers. Naturally, Rand Simberg has been busy, with articles up at Tech Central Station and National Review in addition to his own blog entry.

Rocket Man Mark Oakley discusses Rand Simberg’s "Airplane Scientist" article from TCS, and posts an opinion on why we have not advanced as far in space during the 42 years since the first manned spaceflight as we did in aviation during the 42 years
after Kitty Hawk.

Tim Sandefur, who has a sweet picture of an SR-71 and a copy of one of my favorite poems, High Flight, contrasts the triumph of the free, entrepreneurial Wright Brothers with the failure of the government-funded Samuel Pierpont Langley (a point also made by Rand Simberg in his several articles above).

Since Tim got High Flight up first, I'll have to resort to quoting some poetic prose from one of my favorite books:

Throttle forward again and the airplane swings into take-off position on runway two eight. The concrete is wide and long. The painted white stripe along its center is held at one end by my nosewheel, at the invisible other end by the tough nylon webbing of the overrun barrier. A twin row of white edge lights converges in the black distance ahead, pointing the way. The throttle moves now, under my left glove, all the way forward; until the radium-caked tachometer needle covers the line marked 100 percent, until the tailpipe temperature is up by the short red arc on the dial that means 642 degrees centigrade, until each pointer on each dial of the red-soaked instrument panel agrees with what we are to do, until I say to myself, as I say every time, Here we go. I release the brakes.

There is no instant rush of speed, no head forced against the headrest. I feel only a gentle push at my back. The stripe of the runway unrolls, lazily at first, beneath the nosewheel. Crackling thunder twists and blasts and tumbles behind me, and, slowly, I see the runway lights begin to blur at the side of the concrete and the airspeed needle lifts to cover 50 knots, to cover 80 knots, to cover
120 knots (go-no-go speed checks OK) and between the two white rows of blur I see the barrier waiting in the darkness at the end of the runway and the control stick tilts easily back in my right glove and the airspeed needle is covering 160 knots and the nosewheel lifts from the concrete and the main wheels follow a half-second later and there is nothing in the world but me and an airplane alive and together and the cool wind lifts us to its heart and we are one with the wind and one with the dark sky and the stars ahead and the barrier is a forgotten dwindling blur behind and the wheels swing up to tuck themselves away in my seamless aluminum skin and the airspeed is up to one nine zero and flap lever forward and airspeed two two zero and I am in my element and I am flying. I am flying.

Posted by JohnL at December 17, 2003 01:08 PM
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