Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chicken Gun

I actually did learn one other tidbit of information from the Hudson River plane crash. I learned that because bird strikes are not at all unusual, airplane engine prototypes have to be tested for their resiliency to birds before they go into production.

How do they do this? Well, there’s really only one way. There exists a tool that is a distant cousin of the ball lobbers tennis instructors use. (It has several names; “rooster booster” is my favorite.) Engineers load real chickens (my father says they use frozen ones from the supermarket) into the gun and launch them at high speed directly into the spinning turbines. The engines are required to maintain a certain amount of power after the strike. If they don’t, the engine design goes back to the drawing board before it’s used on a commercial aircraft.

Think about this the next time you see a scientist speaking soberly on the news about the safety testing that airplanes have to go through. Now you have some idea what that guy's doing all day long when he’s not on camera.

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