Tuesday, May 15, 2007

400 Tonnes Gets Airborne

The 747 is roughly 200 tonnes of aircraft and 200 tonnes of fuel. Pretty amazing weight when their take off and flight it so elegant and graceful. They say fat people make the best dancers – sure on their feet and confident about handling their bulk. But I would be reluctant to label the 747 fat. Big boned maybe. Not fat.

I took this sequence of photos as we departed Sydney yesterday. If you take note of the leading edge in the top photo, taken while we were powering north along the runway, you can see how straight it is. As the aircraft lifts off and the weight is taken off the undercarriage (wheels) you can see what happens to the wings as the 400 tonnes is transferred to them – the leading edge takes on a decided curve upwards to the tips. If you are standing on the ground watching this, from behind and below, the fuselage appears to hang in the middle of the wings, as indeed it is designed to do. The engineering involved in this is endlessly amazing. Think about the compression of the top skin of the wing as this happens. And the stretching of the underwing skin. Then the reverse when the aircraft lands. Then think about the metallurgy involved. The internal plumbing. The fact that it is a wet wing – fuel is flooded through parts of it. A constant source of amazement.

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