Not blowin in the windMarch 11th, 2010 by Mike Carlowicz
From Paul Newman, GloPac co-project scientist:
We were planning a test flight of the Global Hawk for Wednesday (March 10), but unfortunately the wind speeds are forecast to be too strong (with gusts greater than 40 mph). You can get a feel for the problem of high winds by driving your car at 40 mph and then sticking your hand out the window. But why exactly are strong winds a problem for a plane?
The Global Hawk has a 116- foot wingspan. (For comparison, the Boeing 737-800 commercial airliner has a 113-foot wingspan). This long wing allows the Global Hawk to soar to 65,000 feet. However, like the booby bird, the Global Hawk is graceful in the air but awkward on the ground. With a heavy fuel load in the wings, a strong wind can easily tilt the wing into the ground and damage the plane. So we’ll play it carefully and wait for another day.