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The Eagle Flies
Magdalena van de Passe stood outside the building and stared. She paid not the slightest attention to what was going on around her; she had eyes only for the plane that was flying overhead. She had seen airplanes on TV, but she had seen dragons and giant apes on TV, too. A civilized person and old Grantville hand knew that just because they had it on TV didn't mean that they could do it in the here and now. It didn't even mean that it was real up-time.
She couldn't hear the engine, or maybe she heard it just a little; it might be her imagination. It didn't matter. The plane was real. Man had learned to fly and could do it in the here and now. And she was going to. She didn't know how, she didn't know when. But she was going to fly. Whatever the cost. She felt almost like she was flying now. After the plane had gone over and while people were running off to wherever they were running off to, Magdalena went back inside. She needed to be alone and to think. Her life had just taken a sharp turn and was running off in a new direction. She needed to catch up with herself.
Back in the building, she looked at the books that had accumulated over the last months. She had come to Grantville at the combined request of her father and her patron. An engraver from a family of engravers, Magdalena was here to learn about opportunities in that field and opportunities in general. To facilitate that, she was studying up-timer business practices. She had found it interesting; now she found it positively engrossing. Right there on her desk was a paper on the costs of mule trains and how they compared to barge traffic, the new rail lines, and trucks on the improved roads. What about airplanes? How much would they cost? How much could they carry? What were their hidden costs?
Suddenly, Magdalena's life was making another turn or perhaps she was catching up with the last one. The outline of a plan was forming. There were a lot of pieces missing, but she could fill those in; she was sure of it. Meanwhile she had some letters to write.
I pray that you will put aside your reasonable skepticism and gift me with a continuation of that trust you gave me when you sent me to this place of wonders. For what I have to tell you next may make you wish you had sent my brother instead.
Magdalena had been sent instead of her brother because she was probably the least trusting member of the family. Her brother was a talented artisan but "he'd buy the Brooklyn Bridge without even arguing the price," as she had heard Cora Beth say.
I would not believe the report I must now make lest I had seen it with my own eyes. Not ten minutes ago, I stood outside this very building and watched a flying machine overhead. With my own eyes, Papa. I would not accept such a claim on lesser evidence. Nor can I truly expect you to. What I do ask is that you begin to let yourself consider believing that it is possible.
I make this request because one thing came very clear to me as I watched the manmade bird sail over head. There are no toll collectors in the sky.
Your Services No Longer Required
"Sorry, Georg. But with Jesse Wood running the Air Force . . . " Vanessa Holcomb actually seemed sorry, though they hadn't gotten along. Kitt Aviation was letting all the down-timers go, because Jesse Wood had beaten them into the sky and would be deciding who got the government contracts. They said they were going to have to cut back. The rest sort of flowed over him as he dealt with the fact that the sky was no longer his to claim.
Two days later Georg Markgraf paced back and forth outside the Gardens. This was a crazy idea. He wasn't any good with people; he knew that. Maybe he should try to join the Air Force . . . but the line was long for pilot training. Besides, he wanted to build planes more than he wanted to fly them. And the up-timers had that part pretty much sewn up, so far as the Air Force was concerned. He had tried the Kelly's; they weren't hiring either. That left starting his own company.
Georg finally ran down and most of his guests left, but Farrell Smith stayed. "Kid, you are not good at public speaking. Your presentation skills are pitiful. You're not well organized and you get distracted. In fact, you pretty much suck at it."
Georg slumped and buried his head in his hands. "I know. I know. But I can build a plane." He thumped his chest. "In here, I know it. I have seen the designs at Kitt. Seen the designs at Kelly. I understand aerodynamics; the numbers and concepts make sense to me. I can do as well. Better. Because they are not considering what we can do now. They all concentrate on what can be salvaged, not what can be built anew."
"How do you mean?"
"Craftsmanship!" Georg held up his hands. "I don't mean fancy doodads. I mean the ability of a good craftsman to judge wood, its strengths and weaknesses, by feel. To shape it using the structure of the wood itself. I mean the skills of a good leather worker to make a saddle or a wine sack and pick the right leather for the right job. Those skills can be combined with your up-time tools and knowledge to craft airplanes."
Farrell kept him talking late into the night. Because the kid had a point. Just before Farrell left, Georg asked, "Do you think any of them will invest?"
"Not a chance, son. I'd be running too, if I didn't know you a bit and Dad hadn't said some good things about you." Farrell shook his head. "Those folks came here half sold after Jesse Wood's flight. You managed to convince them that investing in flight was crazy."
"What do I do now?"
"You wait. Just hang on and let me see what I can do." Farrell assured Georg that he'd contact him in a couple of days. The boy had good ideas. After listening to him talk about the monocoque design he had in mind, Farrell was convinced of several things. Georg Markgraf was as qualified as anyone in Grantville, outside of Farrell's father, Hal, to design aircraft. Georg wasn't, however, qualified to run a company whether it designed aircraft or made thumb tacks. And, finally, Georg had to be prevented from making presentations in front of potential investors at all costs.
Farrell paused, then turned back. "Georg, where are you staying?" With the kids moving out, the house was a bit empty. He'd have to clear it with Mary but perhaps the kid could stay with them. Farrell wasn't really qualified to run a business, either. He could put together a presentation, even if it would end up sounding like a lecture.
"I was sharing a room with a friend. It's paid for the rest of the month."
Farrell wasn't all that much of a salesman himself, but after years of teaching shop at least he could sound like he knew what he was talking about and keep on point. He made the presentations. The fact that his father was the one and only aeronautical engineer who had been brought with the Ring of Fire didn't hurt and the timing was good. After Jesse Wood flew and, especially, after Hans Richter soloed, people were ready to throw money at flight projects. It had been proven that it could be done down-time and the down-timers—even more than the up-timers—saw the potential benefit.
There were more than rational reasons for this. The simple fact was that the New US, and much of the CPE, was caught up in the romance of flight.
We Need a Bigger Plane
June 25, 1633
TransEuropean Airlines is seeking bidders to produce one or more aircraft to open passenger and cargo service to various cities within and without the USE. The planes must be capable of carrying at least ten passengers or one ton of cargo for a distance of at least three hundred miles non-stop.
We will provide partial funding on approved designs. Further, we will provide aid in acquiring or constructing engines, within reason. We will provide final payment after successful test flights are completed.
On successful completion of testing of the first aircraft, we will guarantee to buy up to ten more, if the manufacturer can provide them to us within a reasonable period of time.
Contact M. van de Passe
Address: 2613 Makem Rd
Magdalena looked at the letter and smiled. The letter would go out to Kelly, to Kitt and to anyone else who might be doing anything serious in terms of aviation. It would also go out to potential investors to let them know that TEA was serious. Of course, TEA didn't actually have the money to pay for the aircraft yet. But like the bible didn't say 'Act as if you have financial backing and financial backing will be given unto you.'
"I'm not sure I believe this." Georg Markgraf sat at the desk, staring at the computer screen.
Farrell glanced over. "What'ya got?" The computer was running an Excel spreadsheet, full of formulas, drag coefficients, lift calculations, wing stresses . . . all he had to do was plug-in a few variables and out came a pretty good estimate of the flight speed, stall speed, ceiling, empty weight, loaded weight. In general, the results were the probable flight envelope of the projected aircraft.
"That letter we got from TransEuropean Airlines. It got me to thinking. So I started plugging in numbers to see what I got."
"Umm hum?" The spreadsheet had started with something Farrell's father, Hal, and Vanessa Holcomb had put together. Excel was such a powerful program that the various designers, including Georg, had started adding bits. More formula based on up-time books, then more based on experimentation to fill in the gaps. It was a pretty good tool by now, one that let you try things and get a rough idea how they would work.
"Well, I plugged in a hundred and twenty-foot wingspan and got a stall speed of like twenty miles per hour."
"Never work. With the materials . . . " Farrell stopped speaking because Georg was glaring at him. He had forgotten Georg's wing stress kludge.
"I know that." Georg's irritation was as evident in his voice as it had been in his look. Then he visibly shook it off. "We couldn't support even an eighty-foot wingspan. Not in a monoplane."
"A biplane? They're a lot less efficient. You only get about eighty percent as much lift for the wing area."
"Sure. But the upper and lower wings support each other, so they don't have to be nearly as strong. And if the lower wing is shorter than the upper, we only lose lift where both wings are involved. It lets us extend the upper wing farther out. With a seventy-foot lower wing, we could have a hundred-foot upper wingspan."
"What about drag?"
"A lot, but drag is a function of speed and this would be slow." Georg laughed. "To think I would ever call sixty miles per hour slow. I'm more concerned about the strutting disrupting laminar flow."
Farrell scooted his chair over to the computer and started to examine Georg's numbers for real. The four Jeep engines would only put out a grand total of maybe six hundred horsepower. But that was all this thing would need if the numbers were right. "A biplane with those? And have the darn thing fly?"
Georg waved his hand at the computer. "The spreadsheet says we can." He drew pictures in the air. "The upper wing would have a hundred feet of span, the lower seventy. The lower wing is as much to support and strengthen the upper as to give added lift." He sat back down at the desk. "I've got to check these figures. Go away."
Farrell did. There wasn't much point in trying to talk to Georg when he was calculating.
Slowly, as he went through checking the formulas to be sure he hadn't dropped a decimal some place, Georg began to believe it. It would be, he was convinced, unlike in any plane that had ever flown. It would be more like a powered glider than an ordinary airplane.
Georg loved the DC3. He had ever since he had seen one in the movies; more so after he had read up on them. A lot of flight enthusiasts loved that plane, he'd discovered. The DC3 Dakota was perhaps the most-loved plane in up-time history. It was also totally out of the technical reach of anyone down-time. It had two radial engines, each putting out over a thousand horsepower. It was all metal construction and that much aluminum simply wasn't available. But it—or as close to it as they could get—was what TEA wanted.
The biplane that was staring back at him from the numbers on his computer screen would have over one and a half times the wing area of the DC3. It would need it, because it would have barely a third of the horsepower. It would need the extra lift just to get off the ground, as under-powered as it was. Its cruising speed would be less than half that of the Dakota's, but then its landing speed would be a lot less, too. With a full cargo load, it would have about five hours flight time. Right at three hundred miles.