Gongol.com Archives: January 2022

Brian Gongol

January 12, 2022

Aviation News Grounded B-52 goes on a road trip

A decommissioned B-52 is going from Arizona to Oklahoma over land, which seems like a lot of work. And it certainly is: The effort to get the old aircraft over a couple of state lines is going to cost millions of dollars, block highways, and generally creep along at a snail's pace along the route. ■ Once the old plane gets to Oklahoma City, the Air Force will use it as a test bed, since the B-52 airframe is expected to remain in service for a long time to come. Getting the airplane there via highway instead of by flying seems counter-intuitive, of course, until the significant challenge (and cost) of getting it airworthy for a single flight is fully apprehended. ■ Yet it is in a case like this when one wonders why we don't have more heavy-lifting airships available for this kind of purpose. Speed obviously isn't the main objective here -- the road trip alone is measurable in weeks, not hours. It would seem that the constraints of traveling by land would be easily surmounted if the payload could be carried by air. And indeed, the idea has been considered: The Canadian armed forces have looked at the idea and found it potentially practical. ■ A heavy-lifting airship called the CargoLifter was designed to be some 850' long (much longer than the 159' length of the B-52) and to carry around 350,000 lbs. of cargo (about twice the weight of an empty B-52). Other rival heavy-lifting airships have also been considered for development, though they still seem to be stuck in the big ideas phase, rather than gritty execution. ■ Considering the prospective benefits to such a type of transportation -- not least of which include the potential for very high energy efficiency and the obvious benefits to vertical takeoffs and landings directly from the cargo's origin point to its destination -- the idea certainly seems to be within range of becoming a reality over the mid-range horizon. Too late, perhaps, to get a B-52 to Oklahoma City, but perhaps likelier to turn into reality 15 or 20 years from now than one might think. If Amazon can spin up a major air-transportation network in a matter of just a few years, a future with heavy-lifting airships can't be written off.

Socialism Doesn't Work Sen. Elizabeth Warren takes on a bizarre antitrust target

Her statement: "What happens when only a handful of giant grocery store chains like Kroger dominate an industry? They can force high food prices onto Americans while raking in record profits. We need to strengthen our antitrust laws to break up giant corporations and lower prices." Meanwhile, Aldi has achieved a degree of vertical integration that keeps the ghost of Andrew Carnegie awake at night and manifests itself in $1.39 boxes of breakfast cereal. But, sure, what's needed is ham-handed antitrust intervention from Washington.

News A thoughtful reflection on last January 6th

Yosef Goldman: "Our representative democracy depends on its ability to give voice to all Americans, regardless of their views, or their standing in society. It is only as strong as the safeguards that protect the rights of the vulnerable and marginalized." A principled, grounded sense of pluralism matters so much.

Water News Hitting the gym in 1877

You can chuckle at the archaic equipment or laugh out loud at the idea of working out in a suit or a dress -- but just imagine how awful it would have been to work out before there was widely available, clean running water for showers and laundry. That's a modern invention we ought to appreciate even more than a good bench-press machine.

Agriculture The reboot of "Green Acres" is going to be wild

John Deere is introducing self-driving tractors...slowly

News A moose trapped in a household basement

That professor character from the Farmers Insurance commercials has some new material.