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December 16, 2009

New Planes, Alternative Lives

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The Boeing 787 transport flew for the first time yesterday. The only publicly announced problem with the flight of the innovative jet was that it was shorter than planned due to the lousy weather here on Puget Sound.

I didn't see it fly because I was at work 40-plus miles south of where it was doing its preliminary stuff. But on my commute home I did see it on the tarmac at its Boeing Field destination (it took off from Paine Field near Everett, where it was built). I didn't see it this morning because it seems to have been moved to a hangar.

Thanks to their increasing complexity and cost, new aircraft designs are a lot more scarce than they were from the time of the Wright Brothers through the 1950s. However, growing up in Seattle, I got to see a few prototypes tooling around the local skies.

I missed the XB-29 (which eventually crashed while on a landing approach) as well as the Stratocruiser (these because I was too young to understand the significance of what I saw flying) and the XB-47 (which spent much of its testing period across the Cascades at the Moses Lake airfield). But I did witness the YB-52 flying low near our house, flaps and landing gear deployed, apparently on a long, low approach to its Boeing Field home. I also saw the prototype 707 and the initial 747 aircraft in the air.

Which leads me to fantasize how great it would have been to have been a boy living in the western Los Angeles area sometime around 1937-1952 when Lockheed, North American, Douglas, Northrop, Vultee, Ryan, Consolidated and perhaps a few other aircraft firms in Southern California were cranking out prototype after prototype.



posted by Donald at December 16, 2009


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