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Aviation World Records

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John McGinnis
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
201
Posts
109
#1 Posted: 4/15/2010 01:54:14


steve.jpg

 

Although it's a melancholy memory now, I had the pleasure of chatting with our soon-to-be-lost adventurer Steve Fossett at AirVenture '07. Our topic was the ongoing quest for world records. Specifically, how the connection happens between those who want to set them and those who provide various critical ingredients.

I wanted to know whether guys like Steve have to dig around a lot to hunt down record opportunities based upon an inside knowledge of an enabling technology, or whether the technology people bring their ideas to the people who are known to be out setting records.

It seemed pretty likely to me that someone like Steve Fossett would be approached regularly with ideas and mission hardware, and he confirmed this for me. But he also had agendas of his own, ones that required coaxing the necessary hardware into existence in many cases. I can see how this worked in his case, but what about the people who want to set a world record in aeronautics who aren't as famous or self-funded as he was?

As a child I had often thought about how it would be cool to set a record doing something- anything, really, but aside from a brief contention for the downhill speed record on a snowboard I never gave it serious consideration as an adult. Yet recently, one of the unexpected side effects of my aero studies was the discovery that there are huge numbers of longstanding aviation records affected by the introduction of game-changing new technologies for drag reduction. There will be a lot of world records shattered in the years ahead!

This raises the question I asked Mr. Fossett. If there are people out there who have been nurturing vague notions about contending to set or break a particular record or class of records, and people like myself who have yet to publicly demonstrate strong assertions about their new technological developments, is it practical for them to join forces in advance of public disclosure, or must everyone wait until either a 'world record wannabe' becomes a famous aviator or until a longshot breakthrough is suddenly fair game for all?

To his credit Steve lit right up on that one, and we quickly found common ground in the difficulty of the process and the  determination required on both sides even when clearly seeing things the same way.

And then he was gone. My interest in hunting down record seekers went away too, while the question of whether there are really any out there who are as keenly interested as he was remains unanswered.

This posting seems halfhearted to me because I really doubt there are any Fossett proteges trawling around our forums seeking competitive advantage. I don't personally have the time or inclination to throw a wider net, and on that basis alone I felt writing this would most likely be a waste of time. Last week, though, I started to wonder how many ordinary, average people would jump at the chance to do something extraordinary, if only they knew what I know.

Well, here's what I know. There are no safe records anymore. Pick one.

Before everyone writes to point out that money is what really makes airplanes fly (with Fossett's bankroll prima facie) please understand that those who get what I'm saying to them know two things: One, not necessarily. Determination plays the larger part.  Two: it comes with the territory. One of the reasons I never fantasized about trying to set a world record is that I don't fantasize- either you've got a shot, or you don't. If you suspect that with the right chemistry and advisement you might have one, I can say from my vantage that you probably do. Let's talk.



Iselle McCalman
9
Posts
9
#2 Posted: 4/19/2010 13:00:47 Modified: 4/19/2010 13:25:30

 

Psychologically speaking its a very interesting topic. What makes people want to set records? Is it in the genes? This is different from other sports records where people compete against each other.  In a way these type of record breakers compete against themselves and against the odds, so it takes a very special person/mindset.

It sure helps to have the money, but that cannot buy you a record.  You need the vision and determination and a lot of help from fellow aviatiors.  In 2006 an Indian businessman Dr Singhania - sure few has ever heard of him -  set a world record for the highest flight in a hot air balloon.  It was a pressurised aluminium capsule with 18 burners and he soared past 69,0000 feet!   And all of that was done in a "non aviation" country.  He saw the opportunity and took the bait.

But I don't think average people have what it takes.  They might fantasize, but are they mentally prepared for the long, and often lonely, road of achieving these types of records?

 



NO LIMITS
John McGinnis
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
201
Posts
109
#3 Posted: 4/19/2010 14:21:03

Agreed, Iselle. Rare birds.

It would help this inquiry if some of the broad spectrum of "records" were brought to light by some who have an eye on them. Most of the long-established records I'm speaking of could be set by a skilled pilot of average means and disposition if he or she happened to have the ride. Suppose you were planning to fly a cross country, and found that your new GizWidget 9000 would probably set a new point-to-point record without even trying. Why not make it official?

That's the kind of thing that comes to mind. I know that folks buy hotrod airplanes for a reason, but I'm curious about those people who go one step farther by allowing the mission of choice to influence the selection, modification, or design of suitable equipment. Suddenly we have a vast field of new aerodynamic options to explore, and it will take a large number of intrepid builders to begin mapping them out.