Did You Know? (Wright Brother’s Edition)

A Boeing 747 wingspan is longer than the first flight by the Wright Brothers?

On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brother’s first flight was 120 feet and lasted 12 seconds. Their next flight later that afternoon was 825 ft. Who Were the Wright Brothers by James Buckley Jr. tells about the brothers growing up, and their journey to become airborne.

Super Structures of the World: Boeing 747 by the Gale Group gives us all the statistics about 747s. The wingspan is 211 feet. When full of fuel the wingspan extends to 213 feet and the plane can weigh up to 875,000 pounds. Their other book Super Structures of the World: The World’s Largest Buildings shows us the inside of the Everett Washington Boeing plant where the 747s and other planes are built. You could fit all of Disneyland (and have 14 acres left over!) or 75 football fields in this massive building!

David McCullough wrote The Wright Brothers. It includes excerpts from their personal diaries and tells us how instrumental their sister Katharine was in helping them. In 1878, their father, Bishop Milton Wright brought home a toy from France invented by Alphonse Pénaud for the boys that was little more than 2 propellers on a stick with a rubber band. They called it the bat and it forever changed history; inspiring the boys to dream of flight.

In 1889 Orville opened a printing shop, and when it closed they opened a bicycle shop in 1893. Within a few years, they had moved to a larger location and put in a machine shop and started making their own bicycles. They then moved on to gliders while still running the bicycle store with their sister Katharine and working on their plans for a plane.

In 1969 US Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to land on the moon in the Apollo 11. To honor the pioneers of flight, they carried small pieces of the Wright brothers’ airplanes with them in the space capsule. The Wright Flyer, the original plane the Wright brothers flew is on display in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. As well as hundreds of the Apollo 11 artifacts.

Anyway, this should give you something to think about the next time you fly! It all started with rubber bands and propellers!

The Fastest Hunk of Junk in the Galaxy

Nothing is more practical, necessary, and – let’s be honest – downright boring than a repair manual. I don’t mean to belittle the format. The last thing you want is witty dialog or a stunning use of metaphor when you are trying to change a spark plug. But the tedium of trying to always be clear and concise, manual after manual, must weigh on the writers.

Clearly this burden has gotten to the folks who produce the Haynes Repair Manual series. Tucked away amid the usual Ford Escort and Chevrolet Nova guides, are some truly odd and fantastical Haynes repair manuals that have come out recently.

Haynes Boeing 747Take, for instance, the Boeing 747 : 1970 Onwards (All Marks) Owner’s Workshop Manual. If you just happen to own a Boeing 747, a 350 million dollar investment (and that’s without the engines), this is the manual for you. Actually since the book is only 168 pages I’m guessing you might need a little more information, not to mention a grounds crew, to fly and maintain the aircraft. Still it is a fun read and packed with useful facts: who would have guessed that an oil change is rarely, if ever, needed?

Haynes U.S.S. EnterpriseThe jump from the improbable to the impossible begins with the U.S.S. Enterprise NX-01, NCC-1701, NCC-1701-A to NCC-1701-E : Owner’s Workshop Manual. Starting in the model year 2151 this manual examines (in a level of detail only the lovingly obsessed possess) the history, major technologies and functions of every starship with the name of Enterprise. If you are curious about warp propulsion, holodecks, photon torpedoes, and deflector shields, this manual will not disappoint. The section on How Transporters Work, complete with a second by second operational timeline, is not to be missed.

I must admit, it was a kick to see how the authors put together all of the various television series and movies into one cohesive narrative based on a fictional ship. The manual shows no evidence of the internecine conflict that can happen between the different series’ admirers. It just depicts a united Federation going where no man/one has gone before. If all this goodwill isn’t to your liking, then definitely check out the Klingon Bird-of-Prey : I.K.S. Rotarran (b’rel-class), Owner’s Workshop Manual.

Haynes Millennium FalconSpeaking of rivals, that other great science fiction universe has a manual as well. Yes it’s the Millennium Falcon Modified YT-1300 Corellian Freighter: Owner’s Workshop Manual. As I’m sure you know from your Star Wars viewing, the Millennium Falcon is in constant need of repair so a manual makes perfect sense. Learning how to fix, temporarily, that pesky hyperdirve and how to successfully navigate an asteroid field (the odds of which are approximately 3,720 to 1) are just a few of the helpful skills you will learn. You will also find out about the famous pilots of the Falcon including Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca and of course Han, I shot first, Solo.

Being of a more Imperial nature, I hope the rumors are true that an Owner’s Workshop Manual for the Death Star is in the works. Until then I will have to content myself with the current petition to the United States government to build a Death Star by 2016. Having achieved 25,000 signatures it meets the rules for an official Presidential response. I’m hoping that James Earl Jones will deliver the decision.

Richard