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Flying Then and Now

332ddaaf-ee2d-4309-9a2c-b533ccfb1f44Two great books have appeared on aviation: The Wright Brothers and Skyfaring Early history of powered flight is captivating. Frustrated by not daunted by previous failures of flight, the Wrights exhibited relentless application. They were the Horatio Algers of the air [Alger was average citizen made good!] – ordinary folks from a humble background armed only with determination, curiosity and rigor who chose to tackle an impossible problem.
They broke it down and went at each challenge using existing knowledge and the raw common sense of bicycle mechanics operating in the ephemeral substance of air.
– Gliding: first a working airfoil, then a craft capable of carrying a person. They relied on those who had gone before – Lillienthal – but had to create their own data when they found his flawed.
– Control: devising wing warping – a precursor of the aileron, allowing one wing to dip, another to rise, thereby turning the craft. Wilbur discovered the concept by idly twisting a cardboard box while talking to a bicycle customer.
– Testing: The consequences of failure were rather grave. So two innovations: the wind tunnel and Kitty Hawk where constant winds and gentle hills beckoned. They found Kitty Hawk by studying weather data in the open domain of information then available – the library and the Smithsonian.
– Motive power: Power to weight is the key to vertical transport and in planes it required new metals: cast aluminum blocks for engines provided the answer.
Their step by step journey is documented in a re-creation of the advent of powered flight from PBS –

And their success was not instantly embraced! Wilbur conducted a full year of demonstration flights in Europe [spectator events – with royalty and celebrity journeying to the airfield to watch this dragonfly apparatus circle low] after being spurned by American forces in his quest for an early adopter.

Mark Vanhoeneker is a B 747 world ranging pilot with British Air. In Skyfaring, he speaks eloquently from his moving platform beyond the sky – inhabiting a world of thin air, speedy but stately motion, and far flung air-linked megacities.
His evocation of life in the air is so well observed and described – it’s one of a kind.
Could the Wrights ever have imagined this sophisticated industry that now is our primary linkage between distant places? In their time the tie?  Trains and ships.
And linking back to ships – the language and ancient technology of weather, navigation and liquid medium – echoes in the parlance of aviation by massive jet today – waypoints, port, starboard, abeam – glow from these pages.
The unique perspective of a world spanning pilot – one day in Singapore, next to Cape Town – but mainly suspended above the earth for extended periods, looking down on a domain we have learned to transcend – although only temporarily.

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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What’s Our Business?

Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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