What happens when Air gets angry

For no good reason I can tell, California doesn’t operate on the same time schedule of New York City. It’s as if they feel they don’t have to play by the same rules. But, when in Rome, etc.

So for the next little while, daily posts will be delayed by the appropriate time it takes for the little bits and bytes of blogginess to wend their way back to civilization.

How about the unnaturalness of flying to the West? What happens is that Air, anxious to flow to the East, shoots over the left coast, spirits merrily along, minding its own business, when—bam!—it slams into the Rockies.

Normally, when meeting such an unyielding obstruction, Air would back off and wait for another day. But at the mountains, there’s nowhere else to go and there is a never-ending stream of Air cramming in behind it, waiting its turn.

So Air has no choice but to go up—and over. This irks it, and on some occasions, such as yesterday, really pisses it off. It makes it unfriendly to strangers and intruders; it becomes abusive.

We received one particularly hard slap which killed the back-of-the-seat video screens. At times like this, thoughts are not pleasant.

I calculate: here we are at 38,000 feet, which is about 7 miles straight up. How long would it take to fall that far? Our ground speed is 485 mph. Of course, it depends of whether there’s an explosion, which could remove some of our forward momentum. And don’t forget our trajectory will be like a half parabola, somewhat stunted by the head wind. The debris should end up somewhere north of Sasquatch’s base camp. The luggage and bodies—what’s left of them—should fall a fair piece behind the carcass of the plane…

In other words, you try and engage your mind so that you don’t focus on your impending doom.

Anyway, after a while, we meet friendlier, still complacent Air.

And then we landed and so I’m here.


  1. DAV

    To Air is human.

    I recall a formula encountered in the my Dark Ages to the effect that y=1/2 at^2. What does the x velocity have to do with time to impact — assuming the dx/dt is less than orbital speed? Don’t forget human terminal velocity which is around 120 MPH.

    While diverting your mind from tragedy, you could also think of the flu and other viri being transported along with your fellow passengers and marvel at how it spreads itself.

    All of your worrying paid off it seems — you made it!

  2. Ray

    “What happens when Air gets angry?”

    You are attacked by the pathetic fallacy?

  3. Mike B

    Surely you recall calculating terminal velocity in your first semester calculus class! The frictional force due to air cancels out the gravitational force, and you cease to accererate. IIRC, terminal velocity for a human is slightly more than 100 mph. It would be long trip down.

    Glad you made okay.

    BTW, MythBusters did a really neat segment on terminal velocity where they showed that bullets fired straight up into the air return to the Earth at terminal velocity rather than muzzle velocity.

  4. Mike B

    Sorry for the cross post. I was having Browser problems.

  5. You had me worried for a minute there. It was a relief to get to the end of the post and find out that you survived your flight…

  6. Roscoe

    Ya know……you can meet the most interesting people on Greyhound.

  7. Earle Williams

    Assuming a state of consciousness during that long descent through Air, one can easily extend the time of travel. Turn that 2’40” journey into a leisurely 3’00”. All you have to do is generate a significant amount of counter-thrust. If you don’t have a tank of compressed gas handy, use the organic alternative. Generate a forceful jet of air by screaming at the top of your lungs. 🙂

  8. James Gibbons

    You should have worked with some NASA scientists I knew back in the 70’s. They noticed their IR sensor detected something right before some clear air turbulence. They then got a grant to go flying around the Rockies looking for the stuff to see if they could detect more of it. Fun stuff!

  9. James Gibbons

    Angry air really isn’t the worst the NASA scientists had to put up with. Back then they were flying two telescope planes: a C-141 and a Lear. The Lear once had a small fire on some equipment. The pilots started to worry when they could hardly see the dials from the smoke. They lived through that one.

    My first flight on the C-141 saw a bit of equipment start smoking too. The scope power faulted and we got to land with a big hole open on the side because the scope door wouldn’t close. The only time I got worried was when one of the techs grabbed an oxygen mask and an axe and started walking up and down between the racks looking for something to attack.

  10. 49erDweet

    I thought that might be you yesterday when Sullen Air passing over Monterey Bay suddenly began backing up from the Sierra, becoming Angry. A neighborhood bird mentioned a “muck-up” over the Rockies but didn’t go into further detail. Nature’s trick that usually fixes the ‘Angry Air backing up over the Rockies’ problem is to initiate a rock slide in Yosemite NP, so somewhere in the park – thanks to you- there’s likely to be fresh rubble. Coincidentally just a quarter mile north of Sasquatch’s base camp. Or else there’s a butterfly in China to blame.

    Anyway, welcome to the best coast. Pay no attention to the “state” we’re in. As soon as they’ve depleted all our credit [our money is already gone] the useless idiot locusts in Sacramento will be moving to a greener pasture – probably one filled with Chinese butterflies – and we might once again resuscitate our golden state.

    The reason for the time difference is that east coasters love letting their kids watch TV football games that won’t be over until after 1 AM on a school night. Everybody knows that. Otherwise we would go by China Standard Time.

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