Curious about the history of flight?
How do airliners stay up in the air, anyway?
Will we enjoy supersonic passenger air travel ever again?
If you are like my daughter and me, you absolutely love flying and everything having to do with it. Getting up well before dawn to make it to your 4am check-in time. Finding just the right time to board the aircraft (pretty much last – we never use the overhead bins). Thrilling to the speed of take off. Marveling, each and every flight, at how such a heavy piece of machinery stays airborne.
We can’t get enough of the journey itself (“Getting there is half the fun!”) To be honest, I often find the actual getting out of town to be the most exciting part of the trip. Even when Holly and I aren’t holed up in an airport somewhere, we like to spend time together plane spotting. For us, when we can’t get away, it’s fun to watch others do so and imagine where they’re going.
Road Trips? Okay… but!
Sometimes getting away involves a road trip. I love them, too! But soaring through the skies is what my peripatetic soul yearns for. If yours does too, you’ll want to stay tuned to this category!
Let’s start with a video investigating all about early flight. The story of the Wright Brothers and their blood, sweat and inspiration is followed here by Secrets of Flight, which helps explain just exactly how these behemoths of the air make their way seemingly effortlessly through the skies. Then, we’ll watch videos about what I think are the most exciting civilian aircraft (Boeing 747, Air Force One*, Airbus A380, and Concorde) of the last 50 years! Buckle up!
*Technically a military aircraft, but based on civilian design!
THE WRIGHT BROTHERS’ FLYING MACHINE – NOVA
Let’s first take a close look at the birth of aviation as we know it today. On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright, two bicycle shop owners, sustained the first controlled flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. (You’ve visited Dayton, Ohio, right? Or at least read all about The Wright Stuff?)
Watch this video and learn how the physics of cycling inspired the ability to steer an aircraft effectively. Modern day mechanics and pilots use modern day equipment, such as computers, to recreate the Wright Brothers’ path to the skies. Really fascinating!
THE SECRETS OF FLIGHT
So how the #^%* do aircraft manage to “slip the surly bonds of earth” anyway? What do lift, drag, thrust, and weight have to do with it? Good grief – a person weighing 150 pounds can jump in the air for a split second, while a 300-ton jumbo jet can sail aloft for hours! Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Watch to learn about the magic of aeronautics. I found it especially interesting to learn what’s in store for the future!
747 THE JUMBO REVOLUTION
Everybody knows what the nearly 50-year-old 747 looks like! What was the inspiration behind the design of the widebody jet? Did you know that the Wright Brothers’ first flight could have taken place within one? And yikes – how did an unfortunate 747 cargo door explosion cause a poor passenger to lose his foot? This is a truly fascinating look into this marvelous plane’s history!
ON BOARD AIR FORCE ONE
If the 747 is the most recognized airplane in the world, the most recognized version of it would be the President of the United States’ 747. It is only officially referred to as “Air Force One (AF1)” when the commander-in-chief is on board. The aircraft makes use of the shell of a workaday 747, but inside, it’s made up of some pretty spectacular stuff. We get to go on board to see the buzzing command center, the president’s private office, his bedding (surely narrower than yours), and kitchen galleys.
Of course, little is said about AF1’s top secret defense mechanisms. Even so, I particularly enjoyed watching how Air Force One’s pilot maneuvered the tricked-out bird through the troubled American skies on 9/11.
CONCORDE’S LAST FLIGHT
The celebrated Concorde arrived on the scene as competition to the 747. It could carry only a fraction of the wide-bodied plane’s passengers, but it did so in less than half the time. The Concorde heralded the onset of the “sonic boom;” its top speed was over twice the speed of sound! Jetsetters* could fly from New York to London, enjoy tea, crumpets, and a spot of shopping, then jet back home, all in one day! Watch this incredible journey into its development and ultimate failure as a suitable mode of transportation. Do you think it will ever come back into regular use?
*When yours truly (Maggie) worked for the airlines 25 years ago, the price to fly supersonic aboard the Concorde was a cool $5,000 – one way!
AIRBUS A380 WORLD’S LARGEST PASSENGER AIRLINER
The hot aircraft of the day is the goofy-looking (in my opinion) Airbus A380. Someone took the hump of a 747 and extended it all the way back, to hold over 500 passengers, crew – and waterfall! – comfortably. Why is such an enormous aircraft – it’s seven floors tall at the tail – even warranted? Will it maintain the staying power of the mighty Boeing 747, or is it due for a lighter, faster, nimbler replacement in the near future? This video goes in depth into this amazing flyer!
Which aircraft appeals the most to you, and why? Let me know in the comments. In part 2 of this video collection, What Goes Up…! watch how aircraft attempt to defy the laws of physics with terrifying yet entertaining results!