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Winging It! With Dr. Paul

Fling Wing

Toni Wakes drawing Whop whop whop whop flings the wing of the Bell 47, as it hurls itself through time and space on the strength of will and determination alone. It's said helicopters don't actually fly; rather, they beat the air into submission. I believe it.

You've seen this bird before, on the small screen, evacuating wounded to the 4077th M*A*S*H. Did you notice how it defied all known laws of science? The pilot applied inordinate amounts of power, and it actually lifted off! By rights, it should have screwed itself into the ground.

It's incredible how so much noise and vibration can produce so little speed. The rotorcraft's chief virtue, its ability to hover, is merely an illusion. For hovering is an absence of motion. A hovering helicopter moves every way but forward. A collection of parts flying in loose formation, you've heard? It's worse than that; these parts are in perpetual midair collision.

My first and only lesson in a rotorcraft was more a study of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. After the instructor had coaxed the craft to a respectable altitude, I was told to move the stick. Which way? Whatever strikes your fancy, I was told, and then watch carefully to see what the aircraft does. If you ever want to do that again, you need merely repeat that particular control input.

I blame it all on Leonardo. Had he excised the airscrew from his notebooks, and concentrated more on his study of birds, we might have been spared this contraption altogether. On the other hand, it could well have been whop whop whop whop, as the Cessna flaps its wings through time and space.

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