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The Time We Thought Launching Planes Merry-Go-Round-Style Would Be Smart

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As a child, you may have tried launching a toy airplane by holding it in your hand and spinning in a circle as fast as you could. This method works well enough for toys, and in the early 20th century a few engineers thought this same concept could be applied to life-sized aircraft as well. 

Vox recently dug up some old patents and illustrations of a few plane-launching carousels that (thankfully) seem to have never made it off the ground. The reasoning behind the concept was that using centrifugal force to launch planes would save runway space, which would allow more airports to be built in densely populated areas. The below concept patented in 1912 shows a rather basic version of the device, and the patent below that from 1930 more closely resembles a terrifying amusement park ride than something you’d find at an airport.

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While these ideas never took off, the merry-go-round concept was something aviation engineers toyed with for decades. In their July 1941 issue, Popular Mechanics even featured illustrations of one such device with an explanation of how it would function.

Then in 1951, a University of Wisconsin physicist named J.G. Winans wrote about his own success with testing the merry-go-round method. Rather than constructing an elaborate apparatus, he anchored his plane to a central point like a tether ball. He then built up speed using the plane’s own engine and took off without incident. He concluded that the mechanism would make a suitable replacement for traditional runways, though he did admit that while experiencing the force of nearly one G he “mostly found it uncomfortable.” Despite his endorsement, runways never lost their status as an airport fixture.

[h/t: Vox]

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This Just In
Flights Grounded After World War II Bomb Discovered Near London City Airport
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

London City Airport grounded all flights on the night of February 11, after a World War II bomb was found in the neighboring River Thames, The Guardian reports.

The half-ton bomb was revealed Sunday morning by development work taking place at the King George V Dock. Following its discovery, police set up a 702-foot exclusion zone around the area, closing local roads and shutting down the London City Airport until further notice. According to the BBC, 261 trips were scheduled to fly in and out of London City Airport on Monday. Some flights are being rerouted to nearby airports, while others have been canceled altogether.

The airport will reopen as soon as the explosive device has been safely removed. For that to happen, the Met police must first wait for the river's tide to recede. Then, once the bomb is exposed, they can dislodge it from the riverbed and tow it to a controlled explosion site.

The docks of London’s East End were some of the most heavily bombed points in the city during World War II. Germany’s Blitz lasted 76 nights, and as the latest unexpected discovery shows, bombs that never detonated are still being cleaned up from parks and rivers more than 75 years later.

[h/t The Guardian]

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History
Why Amelia Earhart Is Remembered as One of History's Most Famous Female Pilots
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Amelia Earhart was a legend even before she mysteriously disappeared in 1937 while flying around the world. But the aviator's fame wasn't entirely based on skill alone. As Vox explains, Earhart's reputation eclipsed that of several contemporaries who were equally—if not more—talented than “Lady Lindy." So why did Earhart's name go down in history books instead of theirs?

In addition to her talent and courage, Earhart’s international fame could be chalked up to ceaseless self-promotion and a strategic marriage. It all started in 1928, when socialite Amy Phipps Guest and publishing juggernaut George Putnam handpicked the then-amateur pilot to become the first woman to be flown in a plane across the Atlantic Ocean. Earhart wasn't involved with the actual flight process, but the trip still established her as the new female face of aviation (and introduced her to Putnam, her future husband).

After completing the transatlantic journey, Earhart’s profile rose sky-high as she gave public lectures, wrote an aviation column for Cosmopolitan magazine, performed stunts like flying solo across the Atlantic (a feat that was first achieved by Charles Lindbergh in 1927), and endorsed everything from cigarettes to designer luggage. Her celebrity was ultimately cemented with her marriage to Putnam, who orchestrated savvy promotional opportunities to keep his wife’s name in the paper.

Learn more about Earhart’s rise to fame by watching Vox’s video below.

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