The Flying Book: Everything You Ever Wondered about Flying on Airplanes [Secure eReader]
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eBook by David Blatner
eBook Category: General Nonfiction
eBook Description: The highly praised author of The Joy of Pi now turns his clever technical and mathematical expertise to the conundrum of flight. Everyone who has ever sat in an airplane has had this same thought at some point in their lives, perhaps every time they fly: "How is this plane ever going to get off the ground?" The Flying Book explores flying through history, physics, anecdotes, sidebars, and illustrations mankind's fascination with flight. From the earliest efforts to fly five millennia ago to today's extraordinary flying machines; from the physics of flight (a relatively obscure, completely non-intuitive property of physics is so powerful that the wings of a Boeing 747 can lift over 700,000 pounds into the air with little effort) to the science of turbulence; from the strangest aircraft ever invented, to a peek into what the aerospace industry has planned for the future." The Flying Book will offer comfort and entertainment to those anxious about flying, and enlightenment to all who read it.
eBook Publisher: Walker Books
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2003
Introduction: The Joy of Flying
How Do Airplanes Work?
How Airplanes Fly
What Is Air?
Parts of an Airplane
The Sound Barrier
How Fast Does It Fly?
The Gimli Glider
Birds Do It, Bees Do It...
Air Traffic Control
From Point A to Point B
Things That Go Bump in the Flight
Bumps and Noises of a Typical Flight
The Trouble with Cell Phones
Tips for Anxious Flyers
Staying Healthy in the Air
Behind Cockpit Doors
What Are Those Pilots Up To?
Weight and Balance
The Fear Factor
Why Airplanes Sometimes Crash
Be Prepared: What You Can Do to Survive an Emergency
The Media's Fascination with Airline Disasters
Less Stress, More Fun
Behind the Scenes at the Airline
The Trouble with Toilets
Fill 'Er Up: Airplane Fuel
Deregulation and Ticket Prices
The Boeing 747
Flying Through History
A Brief History of Flight
The Wright Brothers
Lindbergh: The Lone Eagle
Other Flying Machines
Airships and Helicopters
The Aircar and Other Oddities
Epilogue: The Future of Flying
Appendix: Identifying Airplanes
For More Information
Art Credits Introduction
The Joy of Flying
One of the most fascinating facts about flying in airplanes is that while almost everybody does it, relatively few people really understand how it works. True, most people who drive aren't automotive engineers either, but it's not difficult to intuit more or less how a car works. Airplanes, on the other hand, just seem like magic.
Although flying isn't actually magic, it is like a really good magic trick. Like plucking a rabbit from a hat, pilots use precision and excellent timing to succeed in pulling off a stunt that is plainly, obviously impossible and yet somehow works. Our bodies do their part to sustain a sense of illusion: Our organs weren't designed to handle the conflicting sensations we feel in flight, so it can feel like you're dropping when the aircraft is actually rising, and you can fly in circles and not feel the turn. Airlines do their part, too, by creating a carefully controlled environment: You take a seat in a room with small windows, have dinner, maybe watch a movie, and when you leave you just happen to find yourself in a new city.
Some folks love suspending their disbelief and sit happily trusting that their 800,000-pound jumbo jet will lift off the ground and safely take them to their destination. Most people, however, sit with a certain amount of tension, uncomfortable with trusting their lives to what looks like a trick. Flying is one area in which ignorance is often not bliss, but rather causes a general sense of anxiety among many travelers. In fact, studies show that as few as one in seventeen are totally comfortable when flying, and as many as one in every six people (about 35 million people in the United States) avoid flying whenever possible.
No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.
--William Blake, 1793
Are those wings supposed to be flexing up and down like that? What was that thump? Will this air turbulence make us crash? What are those pilots doing up there, anyway? These are common questions, even for people who fly frequently. Fortunately, unlike a magic trick, the more you know about how flying works, the more you can actually enjoy it. That's where this book comes in. The Unbelievable Dream
One hundred years ago almost nobody on Earth believed that humans would ever be able to fly in heavier-than-air machines. Many prominent scientists proclaimed it impossible and urged aviation researchers to focus instead on more efficient hydrogen-filled balloons to carry passengers from city to city. Their skepticism isn't surprising; after all, to fly is perhaps humankind's oldest dream, and several thousand years of failed attempts are likely to cause more than a bit of doubt.
Historically, the great disappointment that humans couldn't fly (seemingly the only thing that we couldn't achieve) translated into the widespread belief that the sky was reserved for the gods. Excavations from ancient Egypt reveal gods and goddesses with wings. There are old Taoist stories of holy men being lifted to the next world by cranes. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote, "The natural function of the wing is to soar upwards and carry that which is heavy up to the place where dwells the race of gods." And who can forget the Greek tragedy of Icarus, who fell to Earth after his wings melted in the heat of the sun?
Later, Christian tradition held that angels had wings, and that God stopped Satan from flying by clipping his. Muslims believe that Muhammad was raised to Heaven for a night by a winged horse. In the second millennia, the ability to fly became associated with witchcraft, and images of witches on broomsticks filled many people's hearts with fear. (Today, the great success of the Harry Potter stories places both witches and flying broomsticks in a much kinder light.)
In our dreams we are able to fly... and that is a remembering of how we were meant to be. --Madeleine L'Engle, WALKING ON WATER
Even the Wright brothers' historic first powered flight in 1903 couldn't undo the emotional impact of 3,000 years of human myths. In fact, the invention of the airplane only added to the soup by offering a double-edged sword: On the one side, flying gives people control over their lives, letting them move around the planet faster than ever before; on the other side, it removes passengers from control, opening a Pandora's box of concerns.
Twentieth-century Hollywood captured these mixed emotions beautifully, generating a whole new panoply of flying myths. For instance, in the 1950s, the modern-day television hero Sky King could swoop from the sky to overcome villains on the ground. Around the same time, the Twilight Zone showed a young William Shatner battling an elusive gremlin on the wing outside his window, who threatened to crash the airplane. (John Lithgow played this role in the movie of the same name.) The "gremlin" still perfectly reflects many passenger's irrational fears that develop from misunderstandings about turbulence and why airplanes fly. Over forty years later, many people still find themselves haunted by these televised images. The Revealed Mystery
Of course, flying offers more than a method of travel and a bucket of worries; flying has offered a whole new perspective on our planet and an entirely new way of living our lives. Early pilots noticed that while in flight they could see patterns on the ground that were previously hidden -- patterns that revealed secrets. During the First World War, pilots found evidence of old Mesopatamian ruins from the air, and the field of aerial archaeology was born. Similarly, it was only through the use of airplanes that modern geologists and geographers have been able to map and explain many aspects of our planet.
Copyright © 2003 by David Blatner