“Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsakov is a short, busy piece of classical music. And although I would love to tell you more about it, I will save that for another time, but there are more than just bees in the air — airplanes! Have you ever considered how amazing they are? The 747 weighs nearly a million pounds! Its wings do not flap, and yet it flies — at nearly the speed of sound — at up to 43,000 feet above the ground!
How do I know this? You may have guessed. In my former life before retirement, I was an aerospace engineer, probably still am at heart. In the recent past, I spent time certifying cooling systems for the latest 747-8 passenger and freighter airplanes. That included flight testing. So, I know it can fly. I assure you it can fly…and fly well! And here is one interesting story about one of those test flights.
We were testing the EE Cooling system at various altitudes a few years back, and on one particular day, late in the day, we were flying over the Pacific Ocean not too far from Los Angeles. The sun was near to setting, and we were at 3,000 feet above the water. We did that type of testing over the ocean to be sure we didn’t run into things at that low altitude…you know, like a mountain or something. What happened next was that we climbed back up to 43,000 feet, and that baby can climb!
Behind us, as seen by a landlubber, was a streak in the sky starting at what looked like ocean level and going up rapidly. Behind that was the sun. The streak, although we couldn’t see it from inside the airplane, was made a brilliant yellow, gold by the sun, a hard to miss event. It made the news all across the country. Some people thought it was the Chinese firing a test missile offshore of the United States. At least that was the most spectacular explanation.
And no one seemed to know. The FAA was contacted, and they didn’t know. None of the “experts” knew. We knew!
It was us. We were the missile. We were the streak in the sky that evening. It was simply a test flight of the 747-8. And, of course, we never got credit for it.
Oh well, fame…even when you’re famous, they don’t know who you really are.
It has been said that bumblebees can’t fly, any aerodynamicist can tell you that, but yet, the bees fly. A propulsion engineer once said in defiance of the aerodynamicist, “Give me a big enough engine, and I can make anything fly!” So, I guess all bumblebees are cleared for takeoff.
Here are some books about the Boeing 747 available from Amazon:
And just for kicks, here are a few of the other links for some of the Boeing related books on Amazon: