I’m flying to Monterey, CA this morning. I’m going to visit my folks and my brother Chris who live there. I should be embarking upon this journey with more trepidation than I feel. After all last week the threat to air travel was Yemeni package bombs and this week it is exploding airplane engines. I’m around aircraft on a daily basis so their novelty and consequently any fear of the unknown about them is somewhat muted. Interestingly, for the first time I will be flying out to and back from California all the way via regional jets. I use these smaller passenger jets routinely to fly around the Midwest, but was surprised to find that I would be traveling to the left coast on them.
What makes my flights with these jets possible is that both Saint Louis and Monterey are now both regional airports. Monterey has always been one, but Saint Louis only recently found itself one. I’ll connect through Phoenix on the journey west and Denver on the trip back home. When regional jets were first introduced their safety record was definitely not as good as their larger brethren, but there has been some improvement along those lines in recent times. On the plus side, their smaller size makes boarding much faster than on conventional passenger jets. Anyway, here is wishing me safe flights. 🙄
Before we depart the topic of airline travel altogether, I feel compelled to comment on yesterday’s Quantas A380 incident. The A380 is an Airbus product. In fact it is their largest product. It is capable of carrying up to 800 people. This was an extremely serious incident. At first, I didn’t think so, the picture that I saw on MSNBC showed the plane safely on the ground with an obviously damaged engine. Parts of the engine cowling were missing. It looked serious, but the plane still had three other engines, more than enough to fly.
Later in the day I saw some video that was shot out the window by one of the passengers. The movie showed two good-sized holes in the top of the wing near the damaged engine. In engineer parlance this meant that this incident was an uncontained engine failure. In English this meant the engine had exploded and the exploding parts had not been fully contained as they were supposed to be and had impacted parts of the rest of the airplane. This meant that this incident had not one, but two failures.
The first failure was the exploding engine and the second failure was the fact that the explosion was not contained. Engine pylons are designed to contain such explosions. Fortunately, there was not a third failure. Again in engineer parlance, the A380 has a wet wing. In English this means that the A380’s wing is filled with aviation fuel. Hot high velocity engine parts impacting a fuel tank seldom ends well. The uninformed consensus of the guys watching the video was that the engine parts missed the portion of the wing that had fuel in it. Otherwise this incident with no injuries could have escalated to an accident with probable complete loss of life.
As an aside, the picture of the White Basswood tree is sort of a shout out to Dan. Basswood has replaced balsa wood as the modelers’ wood of choice. This heritage tree in the Garden represents what would likely be a lifetimes worth of material for Dan and his art projects.