Re: This funny Rosswel bussines

Mark Grant (
Sun, 13 Jul 1997 14:31:40 +0000

On Sat, 12 Jul 1997, Michael Lorrey wrote:

> What was a Dragon Rapide?

Ancient biplane used for some of the earliest commercial flights. I think
it was the first biplane with an enclosed cabin for passengers.

> True commercial aircraft are extremely
> reliable, but they hardly operate in a harsh flight regieme, and they
> are highly overbuilt for the job.

And the 'saucers' reported by Roswell 'witnesses' aren't? (But odd that
this material which is supposedly so indestructable could be torn into
little pieces in a crash).

> Still, a plane with 20,000 flight
> hours at an average of 450 mph is still brand new compared to an
> interstellar flight of 20 light years at .98 C with no maintenance
> stops. Its a whole different universe of operation.

Yes, it is. Cruising at 0.98c is hardly a harsh flight regime if you have
a shield ahead to catch debris impacts. After your engines shut down
you're simply cruising for years until you reach your destination. Landing
and take-off are also the most extreme parts of an airliner's flight
regime, but they still have to keep their engines running for the whole
trip. And, of course, the crew can't maintain the plane as it's flying,
which alien astronauts could.

Let's compare this to shuttle maintenance, qualitatively the closest
current approximation: the effort required to overhaul a shuttle is almost
fixed regardless of whether it's in space for two days or two weeks. The
vast majority of maintenance is related to launch and landing, which both
happen precisely once per flight. Longer flights merely require more minor
maintenance like removing more garbage, adding more fuel for the fuel
cells, greater chance of having to replace a window damaged by debris etc.
The second the shuttle engines ignite you're up for thousands of man-hours
of work, even if it doesn't launch.

Finally, I find it highly unlikely that aliens as technologically backward
as the Roswell reports imply could travel interstellar distances in their
little saucers. Far more likely they'd be simple planetary transports
which would have been in storage until they reached Earth, then serviced
thoroughly before flight.

> Well, one could say that the skunk works guys were the ones who built
> it, so that may be an advantage over using high school graduates or
> dropouts who were drafted. Plus Kelly Johnson never liked having people
> who just did heavy looking on, like so much military work is.

Precisely; and how much of the increase in maintenance on modern military
aircraft is simply an increase in the amount of 'heavy looking on', or
badly-designed maintenance programs?

Ben Rich mentioned that the massive Air Force oversight to ensure that
they didn't charge for any $600 hammers greatly increased the cost of the
Stealth (not-)Fighter, probably by far more than corruption in the company
could have done. NASA have on occasion found tools inside a shuttle after it
returned and discovered that three inspectors all signed off the forms to
say that those tools were removed. This is why I was concentrating on
commercial aviation, where there's a great incentive to minimize the
required maintenance and oversight.

> Additionally, the CIA got a new plane, while the USAF got a well used
> plane. Maintenance time goes up with airframe age.

AFAIK the CIA started out with the original single-seat A-12, but the USAF
bought two-seat SR-71s from Lockheed instead; I don't think that any
aircraft were transferred over, but I don't have my books handy to check.
Also, AFAIK NASA were maintaining their SR-71s with a CIA-sized crew, and
those aircraft were around twenty-five years old (although I don't think
they flew as often).


|Mark Grant M.A., U.L.C. EMAIL: |