Sunday, April 29, 2007

On a wing and a prayer, again

Upgraded wing
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: 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.


Anonymous said...

I sort of tend to think flight is a miracle, although logic tells me it is science. The times I've noticed the wing, it is flopping about and things are flapping up and down on it. It makes me a little nervous

thanks for visiting my bloggage, by the way, my face is not burned

Sonia said...

Hi Carmi, thank you so much for your visit and nice compliments! Times ago I made a visit to your blog. And I also read your comments on Naomi's blog. I like your blog, too. It's very interesting and witty, but as I have some difficulty with the English, sometimes is too hard to me understand the text and left a comment well written. Like you, I am a journalist. And I wrote a book, "O Que é Velhice", Editora Brasiliense,(1997/2004),that means "What is the Oldness".

I will back soon. Have a nice week!

kenju said...

First? Yeah!!

I think it is half science and half magic, Carmi. There are some things that fly - that shouldn't - if you consider their weight and mass. So magic it is!

Mike said...

Definately science with a bit of magic thrown in. Like a magic carpet except you have to deal with airports!

Great post Carmi. I have often marveled at the way these wings can lift so much. Flying was easier to understand when you looked at the smaller planes in the days of the Wrights. When the materials were wood and fiber. To see something like this take flight still boggles the mind.

Cravey said...

Aviation is science.

Flying is magic.

I'd email for the details but I'm completely okay with my theory as is above.

Safe travels Carmi.

Awareness said...

Hi Carmi.....

Magic.....wings are magic.....this photo is alluring....makes me want to book a flight somewhere.

I too wrote about wings this weekend....almost the same blog post title too! Except I wrote about my own wings. :)

Minka said...

flight-absolute magic. Being a penguin myself, I know how hard flight is to accomplish :)

My first stop to this blog, but i definitely will be back and have a great time in China!

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Flight = magic..

And I don't trust my life to magic, which is why I'm soon to be 33 and have never once been on a plane

b13 said...

Thanks for visiting my site and I look foward to reading yours as well.

I'm always amazed that these gialt hunks of metal stay aloft. Lift is a very powerful thing.

Jamie Dawn said...

I like that photo under the title Wing Revisited. It looks like you were over the ocean. Very cool!

Flight is science, but it's also magical.
If I could have a super power, it would be flight.
Someone else can have super strength or X-ray vision, but I wanna fly high in the sky!!!!! :)

Jamie Dawn said...

I like that photo under the title Wing Revisited. It looks like you were over the ocean. Very cool!

Flight is science, but it's also magical.
If I could have a super power, it would be flight.
Someone else can have super strength or X-ray vision, but I wanna fly high in the sky!!!!! :)

margalit said...

I'm not an aviation geek (well, not yet anyhow) but if you want to see some fantastic photos taken from behind the wing, check out Dave at Check him out anyhow, he's hilarious! But he has great photos..just link to his trips.

Here via Michele

scrappintwinmom said...

I guess you're an aviation geek, huh? The only thing I think of when I see that pic is the inevitable sinus infection I get everytime I fly. Thanks for your visit...and if my DH balks at going to see Tori Amos with me, I'll gladly take you! :)

LZ Blogger said...

Carmi ~ Thanks for popping by my blog and I really apprecaite the kind words. Feel free to stop by ANYTIME! ~ jb///
P.S. The first time I saw a wing like that... I wondered if it was to help them fit next to each other at the smaller gates... but them someone said it was for better fuel mileage. I still think my idea had merit!

Tom & Icy said...

That is very interesting, but I think I'll keep my paws on the ground, thank you very much!

Anna said...

I have some shots like this that I love...

Flight is definitely magical to me....and knowing in my head that it is indeed science, just makes me want to be more scientific and learn more.

That is the best way ot learn!


GEWELS said...

Both! Isn't the lift a bird's wing provides for him everyday magic?

Matt said...

Flight is for sure science that was made possible with a bit of magic. I was gonna say, hey look, the 757 is retrofitted with the winglets.

I've never flown on a 757 but it won't be too long as my flight out to Lihue this coming October is a United Boeing 757.

Northwest is probably the biggest operator of 757s in North America, using 757s to operate all the scheduled flights out of San Francisco (except the A330 to Narita) to Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

The strength of the engine can be frightening, but also thrilling. Moments before takeoff is my favorite time of my flights. Some pilots, once they have clear off signal from the control tower, will hit V1 right away when the aircraft makes the turn and align with the runway for takeoff.

ariel said...

your post touched my heart. flight is scaring the shit out of me, yet it is one of the most wonderful things, a real magic of science. so they call it "the point of no return". I didn't know. very good name. I am listening to the sound of the engines as they get V1, I have never heard a more powerful sound in this world.

Marie said...

It is amazing, isn't it? I live by our airport and see the massive carriers that bring in vehicles. How is that possible? Absolutely amazing science.

Mrs. Fun said...

science, for sure.

i am not sure how you travel so much. I did it two weekends in a row and I am beat!!

Nabeel said...

I take pictures too from the plane window and one should keep an eye out for other planes that pass you by so many times. However they are at a 20 miles distance so small to catch.