RUSH: I just got an e-mail here from my North Carolina mistress. It’s just so typical of a woman. She said, ‘Will you hear a sonic boom from the space thing landing?’ It’s a shuttle! A space thing? (Laughing.) They have fired the retrorockets on the shuttle that’s on the way down. Scheduled landing at 12:32 here in Florida.
RUSH: The space thing, the Endeavour, just landed right on time at the Kennedy Space Center. I don’t care how many times it’s explained to me, and it has been many times, I am still dazzled that you can take this thing up there to 200-plus miles, fire retrorockets, and have it land on a very long runway in Florida, or anywhere, with no power. Literally it comes in with no power. This thing comes down from 200 miles with no power. The approach landing speed before they flare the wings and lower the landing gear is 500 miles an hour. This thing has the glide ratio of a rock. If any conventional aircraft lost power at, say, 35 or 39,000 feet, it’s finished, it’s over with. This thing, and it’s no more aerodynamic than any other airplane, probably less so. But the fact they’ve got one shot to do this, from 200 miles, to hit that runway with no power. There is no correction possible. It just amazes me. And then what if the landing gear failed to deploy? But anyway, it’s great to see it back because they had that gouge out there in the underbelly of the thing that they decided not to fix.
I fly over Cape Canaveral a lot on the way up and back from New York, and when you’ve got a clear day, you can see the vehicle assembly building, and it is huge. That runway they use is unbelievably long, which it has to be because this thing comes in at a speed far greater than what most airplanes need to take off. It’s just mind-boggling to me. I’ve had it explained. Kevin Chilton, the former commander, ‘Oh, no big deal, simple piece of cake.’ I’ve had it all explained to me, but it still doesn’t make sense that there has never been a miscalculation. I know computers are doing it until the last leg where the pilot takes over and actually lands the thing, but it still amazes me. It’s the one thing I still trust NASA to do. They’ve lost me on global warming, but they can land the shuttle each and every time, other than that one accident with Columbia.
RUSH: This is Robert in Miami, an airline pilot. Welcome, sir. Great to have you on the air.
CALLER: Rush, from all of us that fly in the north Atlantic, up-all-night fatigue dittos to you, my friend.
RUSH: Thank you very much, sir. I appreciate that.
CALLER: Listen, I just wanted to dispel fear as well, and that may be the fear that many of the millions across the fruited plain may have felt when you said that if a commercial aircraft lost its engines in flight, it would fall down. It would not Rush. It would glide three miles for every thousand feet of altitude and would give those flying it a fighting chance to bring it down safely. And, I, too, am amazed at the feats of Endeavour, but I just wanted to let you know that even your critics claim that you’re 95% accurate, but when you’re not, due to fatigue, those that love you run to the rescue.
RUSH: Well, I appreciate it, but once again, this will not impact the audit rating because I was wrong on a matter of fact. This was not an opinion, and it’s only my opinions that are audited. But I must confess, I’ve not heard of this happening except when people told me about the 767 up in Canada.
CALLER: You know, I’m not familiar with that one, Rush, but whether you’re flying a commercial aircraft or a luxury craft like EIB 1, the wings are what make the thing fly, and whether it’s been powered or not, it’s still going to fly, it just may not reach its destination.
RUSH: No, I understand the principle of aerodynamics. Some people erroneously call it lift. It’s actually a difference in air pressure, correct?
CALLER: That’s correct. It’s a portion of lift, that’s right.
RUSH: Now, but the reason that I made the statement is I never heard it happening. That’s why I hadn’t heard of this Boeing 767 thing, and with an airplane that — well, you hate talking about this stuff, but there are airline crashes, these things happen, and why, if they’re able to glide?
CALLER: Well, the reason why, Rush, there’s a multitude of reasons why. Usually it’s a chain of events that lead to an accident. But in the case of having a power failure completely in flight, that aircraft is going to continue to glide because the wings are creating lift, and it’s going to glide about three miles for every thousand feet of altitude it has. So if you’re cruising along like you were last night at 35,000 feet —
RUSH: No, 51.
CALLER: I forgot about that, you can fly higher than I can. At 51,000 feet, you would glide at least 150 miles looking for a place to land. I, of course, cannot get to those flight levels so I compliment you, sir.
RUSH: Thank you.
CALLER: All right, Rush, have a good day.
RUSH: That is a comforting phone call to know. Speaking of Michelle Obama’s fear, I probably did instill fear in a lot of people’s hearts and minds when I made the carelessly reckless statement that a commercial airliner could not glide as the shuttle does. The shuttle has a worse glide ratio than a commercial airliner would. There’s just no question. It’s like nine to one, the glide ratio. It’s a rock. It’s still what amazes me, bringing that thing down from 200-plus miles to a 20,000-foot target, basically a four-mile target.
RUSH: I just got a flash e-mail here from our official climatologist at the EIB Network, Roy Spencer, University of Alabama in Huntsville. He became curious, as a good scientist is, over our discussion of essentially a dead stick landing. You got a commercial airliner that loses power, it’s called a dead stick landing. He says: ‘I remember this from the newspaper, Rush. On May 24, 1988, a new 737 jet coming from the Caribbean superpower Belize had its engines quenched in a hailstorm and it made the first dead stick landing of a commercial jet ever,’ and he gave me the link for this, airspacemag.com. I call it the Caribbean superpower because during the Gulf War they were one of our allies. I think they sent a couple of guns, I’m not sure, and I just jokingly referred to them as the Caribbean superpower Belize, because, frankly, until the Gulf War, I had never heard of it, and they were being trumpeted as one of our good allies, and I was happy to know that.
RUSH: This is Dick in Williamson, Georgia, welcome to the EIB Network. Hello.
CALLER: Thank you, Rush. Good to talk to you.
RUSH: Thank you, sir.
CALLER: I wanted to talk about when I flew the 727 for Delta. We used to cut the engines back to idle at 26,000 feet, give or take three or four thousand, glide into the airport, and the first time we would touch the power is when we went into reverse to stop.
RUSH: Wait a minute. Did you do this with passengers aboard?
RUSH: Well, but idle is not a full shut down.
CALLER: That’s true. You have about 60% power when you have your engines at idle, but nevertheless, the air going over the wings is what counts on the wing, so your distance would be shorter without any power at all.
RUSH: Right. Well, 60%’s not insignificant.
CALLER: No, it’s not.
RUSH: You’re not gliding at 60%?
CALLER: Well, it’s strictly cut back. You taxi out at 60% power, but they will fly without any power.
RUSH: I’ve been corrected on this, but still I’ve not heard of it happening very much, just two examples here today. Would you tell, just so the audience here doesn’t get scared to death, why are you cutting back to idle on approach? Tell ’em, please tell ’em.
CALLER: Yes, sir. I flew 33 years for Delta Air Lines, and I figured one day we’d get some contaminated fuel, and we would have to make an emergency landing somewhere, and so in low-density airports, I’d come and practice this thing. Wherever I had to land, I intended to walk away from the airplane, and —
RUSH: Okay, but you did it basically to slow down, right?
RUSH: Okay. It’s a normal procedure. I don’t want people up there thinking that pilots are playing games with the throttles.
CALLER: Well, I don’t, either. People are too worried about aviation. It’s by far the safest —
RUSH: No, not until I tell ’em that their plane won’t land if the engines go out. We’ve gotta be very careful here.