Nova used to be a nice show about science. This week’s program was about escape attempts from the Nazi prison at the Colditz castle. It was a fascinating and entertaining program, but the closest thing to “science” was a closeup of the book on aeronautics some of the prisoners used to design and build a glider they planned to launch off the castle’s roof. (Here’s a link to an article about the glider. Pretty cool.)
And another almost-totally-atypical feature was that the replica of the glider was finished and tested BEFORE time ran out! Not most of the way done, with the participants returning home because their vacations ran out. Not “just this close” to being done except the Nova production schedule ran out. Finished and in the air, flying beautifully. Anti-climactic, in a way.
And could that glider have been more complex? A perfectly typical 1930s primary glider. Admittedly, Rogallo hadn’t devised his wing but it wouldn’t have been difficult to invent independently–hell, a paper airplane could give a bored POW some ideas of what to do with some sticks and a couple bedsheets. And Lilienthal’s control problems had been solved, hadn’t they? Or was counterintuitively leaning out of the bank invented in the 60s, allowing the hang gliders to fly twice?
Whatever. The whole thing was just too complex. They were planning to fly 1000 yards from 300 feet up. They didn’t need a full fuselage. Or dope. (“We were going to make dope from ground millet we got in our rations.”) Goddamned engineers. I have a sign at work, “There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineers and start production.”