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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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When Chuck Yeager Tweeted Details About His Historic, Sound Barrier-Breaking Flight

Seventy years ago today—on October 14, 1947—Charles Elwood Yeager became the first person to travel faster than the speed of sound. The Air Force pilot broke the sound barrier in an experimental X-1 rocket plane (nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis”) over a California dry lake at an altitude of 25,000 feet.

In 2015, the nonagenarian posted a few details on Twitter surrounding the anniversary of the achievement, giving amazing insight into the history-making flight.

For even more on the historic ride, check out the video below.

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History
How the Wright Brothers' Plane Compares to the World's Largest Aircraft
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The Wright brothers famously built the world’s first powered, heavier-than-air, controllable aircraft. But while the siblings revolutionized the field of aviation, their early plane looks tiny—and dare we say quaint-looking—when compared to the aerial giants that came after it.

In Tech Insider’s video below, you can see how the Wright brothers’ flyer stacks up against the scale of other aircrafts. You'll notice that size doesn't always guarantee a successful journey. The Hughes H-4 Hercules—the largest flying boat ever made—never made it past the prototype stage, performing only one brief flight in 1947. And the Hindenburg, which was 804 feet long and could fit 80 Olympic swimming pools, famously exploded on May 6, 1937.

Today’s longest commercial airliner is the Boeing 747-8, which measures 251 feet from nose to tail. While slightly shorter (238 feet), the Airbus A380 is certified to hold more people than any other plane in the air—a total of 850 passengers. That record won't last long, though: In a few years, the Stratolaunch carrier—the widest aircraft ever built—will dwarf its contemporaries when it takes to the skies in 2019. Built to launch rockets into orbit, its wingspan is about the size of a football field, even bigger than that of the Hughes H-4 Hercules.

Still, what the Wright brothers’ plane lacked in size, it made up for in ingenuity. Without it, these other giants may never have existed.

[h/t: Tech Insider]

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