‘Mythbusters’ takes on blogging debate

San Jose Mercury News – ‘Mythbusters’ still happily blowing stuff up

The episode, which airs in December, finds Savage and Hyneman tackling a question baffling everyone from bloggers to pilots: If a plane is traveling at takeoff speed on a conveyor belt, and that conveyor belt is matching the speed in reverse, can the plane take off? “We put the plane on a quarter-mile conveyor belt and tested it out,” says Savage about the experiment using a pilot and his Ultralight plane. “I won’t tell you what the outcome was, but the pilot and his entire flight club got it wrong.”

I can debate both sides of this argument, so I’ll be happy to see the results on this one.  I’m guessing it will, though.  The plane is still moving fast enough for the air to wrap around the wings.  It just doesn’t move in relation to the ground below it, which is also moving in the opposite direction. Just where does one find a quarter-mile conveyor belt? That’s impressive by itself!

6 thoughts on “‘Mythbusters’ takes on blogging debate

  1. Wow, this sounds like a fantastic episode. I am definitely intrigued as to what will happen now.

  2. I would think the obvious answer would be that it could not take off: if the belt speed and plane speed are exactly opposite, then the plane will be going nowhere with respect to the air, and it’s the airspeed past the wing which gives the plane lift. The moving belt isn’t going to move the air, it just moves the particular part of the “ground” the plane is on.

    What’s throwing me is the quote that the whole flight club got it wrong, and I find it hard to imagine that they would not think of what I thought of. So maybe there’s some trick to it that my brain is missing.

  3. I think I have it. The plane WILL take off. The power of the plane’s movement come not from how fast the wheels are going. That’s what a car does. A plane catches air from the propulsion in its wings — prop place or jet place. The fact that the wheels are negated in the distance they travel doesn’t matter one bit. The whole plane is moving above it.

    Hmm, that sounded good when I started writing it, then sounded stupid by the time I finished.

    Nevermind.

  4. I don’t think the prop or jet would have anything to do with it — they move the plane predominantly forward, not up. If there was sufficient up force generated by the prop or jet alone then planes could take off directly from a standing start without a run-up.

    I still think what’s needed for takeoff is the airflow past the wings generating lift, and that’s not going to be there if the plane is stationary with respect to the air (and the Earth, and everything except the treadmill).

    It’ll be an interesting episode to watch, anyway.

  5. Pingback: Various and Sundry: DVDs, Tech, HDTV, and More » Blog Archive » Mythbusters Update

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