Sunday, December 13, 2015

My Favorite Things: Suck, Squeeze, Bang and Blow

A good look inside an engine

One of my earliest childhood memories is flying to see my grandparents all by myself. I probably started flying by myself as early as 5, if not earlier. In the early 70s, it wasn't a big deal. Mom could walk me onto the plane, meet the lovely flight attendant, comfort me, give me a kiss, and be on her way.

I was terribly interested in the goings on outside my window. I loved to watch the movement on the ground by the workers and the neat-looking vehicles...moving belts, scissor lift trucks, train carts full of colorful baggage. And, oh, how I loved watching the airplanes. The bright Braniff colors, the proud Texas International, the long, looking Muse Air planes, the silvery American Airlines. But my favorite part of flying was the take off.

I loved feeling the power of the engines as they roared to life and sent the plane soaring down the runway. I loved how the nose lifted up and the ground shrank and suddenly it was like I could see as far away as Christmas, itself!

I think I can see Christmas!

Today, I still love taking off, and for many of the same reasons. A pilot once described an engine thusly: intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust. This is most easily remembered as "suck, squeeze, bang, blow". Air is sucked in, squeezed, ignited and blown out the back to give thrust. Let's face it, aviation is just sexy!

One of the best takeoffs I enjoy is from Orange County, California. Due to noise restrictions, the plane sits at the end of the runway with the brakes on. They power up the engines and then release the brakes, sending us like a bullet from a gun. Once in the air, we power down as we travel over the residences that invoked the noise ordinance and not until we are out over the water do we power up again to continue our climb. It's invigorating and really lets you know you are flying and at the hands of very capable pilots.

Under the wing of a 737
There is one aspect of takeoff saved for only a flight attendant. It's on the 757 at the door 2Left jumpseat. When seated in this aft-facing seat and looking at the rear of the aircraft, I get a peripheral view of the landscape zipping past the window to my right. While looking at the rear of the aircraft, and seeing the back of the plane bouncing up and down. When the nose lifts up, it almost looks as if the tail of the long aircraft is sinking down further than the ground. It's like the tail is going to hit the runway and dig a trench. It's an optical illusion that I always enjoy!

I'd love to write about an aborted takeoff. They can be scary as the plane suddenly comes to an abrupt stop in seconds after reaching speeds in excess of over one hundred miles an hour. There is a point at which the aircraft is dedicated to taking off, no matter what happens. In my career, I've experienced numerous aborted landings, where the airplane suddenly powers back up and climbs on approach; usually due to other aircraft still on the runway. I've never experienced an aborted takeoff.

The power, the surge, the sound of the engines, the airplane coming to life and fulfilling it's fly in the heavens. Takeoffs; ascensions into the skies, the powerful engines thrusting a metal bird to alight from the ground. It's my favorite!

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