There is no plane I feel safer in than a Boeing 747. Its sheer size and its apparent effortlessness offer something no other plane seems to manage: the ability for passengers to relax.
And they don't seem to drop out of the sky all that often either.
However, Boeing is introducing a new and more economical version of the jumbo jet, the 747-8. So, in order to test its capabilities and secure safety certification, Boeing conducted an experiment to see just how well the new plane could abort takeoff.
They loaded it with almost 1 million pounds of weight and, just for fun, installed a set of Goodrich brakes that were simply 100 percent worn out.
"They've got them machined down so there's basically no material left." Boeing's flight test manager, Andy Hammer, said on the company site.
So all Captain Kirk Vining had to do was slam on the brakes at 200 mph. Oh, and he wasn't allowed to use the thrust reversers.
I imagine Capt. Vining to be a man with relatively low blood pressure and an addiction to bungie jumping without the bungie part.
For he managed to bring this huge machine to a stop earlier than the test team had imagined.
But then they had to hope the brakes wouldn't catch fire. And they weren't allowed fire department assistance for five minutes, in order to simulate a real scenario at a real airport, with real chaos.
After it was done, Hammer offered, with renewed confidence: "This was the worst case. So when the airplane is in service, you can be assured that at 975,000 pounds, with worn brakes, worst center of gravity, and worst cut speed that you actually can stop the airplane."
Well, I couldn't stop the airplane. I would be too busy trying to jump out of the window. But you know what he meant. And it seems like a good thing.