For centuries man dreamed of flying. But a man does not have muscle powerful enough to lift his own weight into the air, it was not till December 17, 1903, when Wilbur and Orville Wright started the engine, the propellers whirred, and the first aircraft lifted off into the icy wind. The brothers became international celebrities. But how did they manage to power themselves into the air? Yes, nature played a part. Now days, the man had an engine that could power a flying machine. Pilots balance modern aircraft by adjusting a few flaps on the wings and tail, but instead a little bird uses some 48 muscles in its wing and shoulder to changes the configuration and motion of its wings and individual feathers, doing so several times a second. A measure of an aircraft’s efficiency is whether it can take off carrying sufficient fuel. When a Boeing 747 takes off for a ten hours flight, roughly third of its weight is fuel. Similarly, a migrating thrush may lose almost half of its body weight on a ten-hour flight. But when a bar-tailed godwit takes off from Alaska heading for New Zealand, over haft its body weight is fat. Astonishingly, it flies for about 190 hours (eight days) nonstop. No commercial aircraft... [continues]
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