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Old 08-05-2014, 11:51 AM   #41
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And a related issue: at the time of the EMP-like event and assuming that all electronics in all airplanes are totally fried, I'm guessing that most airplanes would immediately be totally uncontrollable. That is, there's no "gliding in for an emergency landing" stuff. Yes?

The only ones that could be controlled are those in which the pilot's controls are directly connected to the control surfaces.

If so, what percentage of the planes in the air fall into that latter category?

Thank you.
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Old 08-05-2014, 12:00 PM   #42
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I would go for some scientific phenomenon that hasn't been observed yet or is hard to disprove rather than a standard EMP. Maybe some manipulation of those subatomic particles that wink in and out of existence (they call that quantum foam or something?). Perhaps one day it would be possible to bypass a faraday cage and cause destruction to circuits via this process.

As proof we don't know as much as we think we know, NASA has just confirmed a space drive producing thrust that seems to violate the conservation of momentum.
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Old 08-05-2014, 01:21 PM   #43
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Originally Posted by Fermion View Post
I would go for some scientific phenomenon that hasn't been observed yet or is hard to disprove rather than a standard EMP.

As proof we don't know as much as we think we know, NASA has just confirmed a space drive producing thrust that seems to violate the conservation of momentum.
Agreed.

That EmDrive thing is pretty neat.
There are three possibilities: either the EmDrive doesn't do what its creator claims, it somehow doesn't break the law of conservation of momentum, or our fundamental understanding of classical physics is completely wrong.
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news...ze-Spaceflight
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Old 08-05-2014, 01:43 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
And a related issue: at the time of the EMP-like event and assuming that all electronics in all airplanes are totally fried, I'm guessing that most airplanes would immediately be totally uncontrollable. That is, there's no "gliding in for an emergency landing" stuff. Yes?

The only ones that could be controlled are those in which the pilot's controls are directly connected to the control surfaces.

If so, what percentage of the planes in the air fall into that latter category?

Thank you.
Set up another sub-plot: before they take off from CA, they have to jerry-rig the wing flaps with some mechanical adjustment since some of the electronics were fried. As they get close to DC, their jerry-rig set-up fails. One person volunteers to go out to fix it, wearing a parachute in case they get blown off.

They fix it, and get blown off. As they are slowly descending w/ their parachute, an alien ship attacks the plane and destroys/abducts it. As it is doing so, the person parachuting down sees something that gives insight into the alien's vulnerability or how they derive their EMP power from the atmosphere or some other secret...only they don't make this connection from their observation until later on in the story.
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Old 08-05-2014, 03:54 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
And a related issue: at the time of the EMP-like event and assuming that all electronics in all airplanes are totally fried, I'm guessing that most airplanes would immediately be totally uncontrollable. That is, there's no "gliding in for an emergency landing" stuff. Yes?

The only ones that could be controlled are those in which the pilot's controls are directly connected to the control surfaces.

If so, what percentage of the planes in the air fall into that latter category?

Thank you.
T-Al, most "general aviation" aircraft are still controlled by cables. The exceptions are the newer (maybe last 10+ years) jets. Such aircraft and virtually all newly designed commercial aircraft have gone to fly by wire (no direct connection between the stick/rudder and the control surfaces.) FBW is essentially a computer that accepts commands from the pilots controls and converts them into control surface movements. Losing the computers which operate these systems would (likely) doom the aircraft. My understanding is that the redundancy is breathtaking (maybe 7 computers??).

The aircraft you envision in your story would almost certainly have FBW controls. To gain agility and speed, most newer military aircraft use FBW simply because the planes can not be controlled otherwise. The aircraft are inherently unstable and no pilot using conventional controls can correct fast enough to keep them flying. Imagine balancing a pencil on your index finger (point up) for 8 hours at a time. Few humans can do it for a few seconds. If you taught a computer how to do it, it could do it until the current was interrupted. As always, YMMV.
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Old 08-05-2014, 04:34 PM   #46
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Given you are talking about 4 hours for the transit, assume you start out at say 1 am pacific time, then you are at 4 am est for a start and would arrive at DC at about 8 am. So the time differences help in terms of daylight. The greater issue would be assume DC is socked in with a tropical storm, then your goose is really cooked.
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Old 08-05-2014, 04:37 PM   #47
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Just to show you how valuable your comments are, here's a very rough draft related to this thread:

“What’s Captain Ahab doing here?” Doug Cobb pointed to the old man with a snow-white sailor’s beard.
“He’s your copilot,” Woodford said.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“I’m kidding that he’s your copilot, but he is your passenger.”
The old man strode over and saluted both of them. “Erasmus Whitington reporting for duty.”
Cobb looked at Woodford and mouthed the name “Erasmus?”
“Call me Salty.”
Cobb shook the old man’s hand, but looked over at Woodford again and mouthed the word “Salty?” To Whitington he said, “Salty, I need to speak to Colonel Woodford for a second, could you excuse us?”
Cobb dragged/pushed the Colonel over towards the landing gear. “You’ve got to be kidding me, what the hell is going on? Is Captain Ahab really coming?”
“Captain Ahab may save the mission, Doug.”
“What is he going to do, protect us from the great white whale? And what’s in his little antique case there?” Cobb pointed.
“That’s his sextant.”
Cobb froze with his hand still pointing, and stared at Colonel Woodford.
“It’s an instrument that’s used …”
“Yeah, I know what a sextant is, I just want to know why we need one in a twenty-first-century supersonic spaceplane.”
“You might need it, and you might need Salty, because when you arrive in DC, you won’t have GPS. It’ll be dark and there won’t be any ground lights.
“What about my ground-mapping radar and night-vision goggles?”
“Yeah, those might do it, but Salty will be there just in case. He’s an experienced celestial navigator. He’s sailed around the world five times without electronics. But there’s another reason you need him.”
“He knows all the latest sea shanties?”
“No, he’s familiar with DC.”
“Let me guess. He sailed up the Potomac in the HMS Bounty.”
“No, he restored a 1931 biplane, and he flies it, day and night, again with no instruments, over the Washington area.”
Cobb looked over at Whitington. “So, what’s he doing here at Edwards, did his sextant run out of whale oil?”
“Doug, there’s no time for this. The Peregrine’s almost ready. You guys can get acquainted on the trip.”


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Old 08-05-2014, 05:00 PM   #48
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Great idea about having someone along who knows the area.

So,

Full moon, clear night: No problem
No moon, clear night: Impossible?
Full moon, occluded by clouds: ??
Half moon, clear night: ??

Thanks.
And just to throw in Murphy's Law whenever you want to, make it scattered clouds with a half or three-quarter moon. Unobscured moon, no problem. Obscured moon "Oh, crap!"

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Just to show you how valuable your comments are, here's a very rough draft related to this thread:

“No, he’s familiar with DC.”
“Let me guess. He sailed up the Potomac in the HMS Bounty.”
“No, he restored a 1931 biplane, and he flies it, day and night, again with no instruments, over the Washington area.”
Perfect! Love it!

And entirely plausible.
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Old 08-05-2014, 07:34 PM   #49
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OK, EMP pulse! You are going to have to modify this somehow. Cities show up at night because of the lights and the pattern. I believe that a pilot living is say CA, that is real familiar with DC, takes off arrives say six or seven hours later, and tries to identify DC at night, no lights or partial lights. Gas is going to be at a premium and so is diesel fuel. I would say that half of the generators are going to be out also. Airports are going to be closed, so most likely their lights will be off. You are in one of the densest corridors in the country. Scattered lights with the familiar patterns gone. Your pilot or pilots finding the airport, for me, would be like finding a needle in a hay stack, but hey if is a syfy story. I would arrive in the daytime. I still like the unexpected arrival of a drone.
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Old 08-05-2014, 08:11 PM   #50
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"No, he restored a 1931 biplane, and he flies it, day and night, again with no instruments, over the Washington area.”


One small glitch: The Washington DC area is almost exclusively "Class B" airspace (serving Baltimore-Washington, Reagan Intl, and Washington-Dulles), so Salty would only be in his airplane there if he was in contact with air traffic controllers and if his biplane were equipped with a transponder. There's nothing technically wrong with that, but if he's got that level of electronic kit, he may not be a "purist" and would probably also have electronic navaids.
The "Mode C veil" around DC extends in a 60 NM radius from Reagan Intl airport. Under that veil, airplanes must have transponders to operate and must be in contact with ATC. I'm sure there are exceptions, but they are few. Primitive airplanes aren't welcome near busy airspace.
Now, if Salty were a CareFlight helo pilot taking patients to and fro in the DC area, he'd be very used to navigating visually around the area. But he probably wouldn't have seen it from an altitude higher than 3000-4000 above the ground. And arriving at night with no lights in DC would be positively spooky.



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Old 08-05-2014, 08:55 PM   #51
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One small glitch: The Washington DC area is almost exclusively "Class B" airspace (serving Baltimore-Washington, Reagan Intl, and Washington-Dulles), so Salty would only be in his airplane there if he was in contact with air traffic controllers and if his biplane were equipped with a transponder.

OK, I'll put those things on his plane, thanks.
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Old 08-06-2014, 09:31 AM   #52
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Radios, Civilian AC use VHF while Military use UHF. They don't talk to each other. I never flew transports, but I would guess that the C series aircraft have both. I don't have a clue if civilian AC have UHF. I never flew a fighter with VHF.
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Old 08-06-2014, 10:25 AM   #53
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I don't have a clue if civilian AC have UHF.
Small ones don't, comms are only on VHF. I don't think airliners have much use for regular UHF, but I think their SATCOM systems might operate in that band (though maybe set up just for SATCOM, not for line-of-sight terrestrial comms).
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Old 08-06-2014, 10:40 AM   #54
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By the time a museum SR-71 is made air-worthy the pony express would have made it cross-country, so I don't think that's very plausible.
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Old 08-06-2014, 10:50 AM   #55
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ICBM: 20 minutes coast to coast. Launch a "just happened to be waiting for a test" missile from Vandenberg AFB, CA to splash down in the Potomac. The arrival should get the attention of the locals, I haven't worked through how they find the note in a bottle inside the caramelized, smashed, and buried RV.

Normally, this might get the Russians all bothered, but if the satellites are knocked out, how are they gonna know about it? That in itself raises an interesting possible story element: with launch detection knocked out and no way to communicate between national leaders, the two scorpions in a bottle become very dangerous to each other--and everyone else. I'd expect there would be some sort of limited airborne alert of some elements of the nuclear force (tankers and bombers) to prevent having everything caught on the ground in an attack. This is something we haven't done in many decades: it is expensive, hard to do (esp with all the other turmoil that would be going on), and it depends on the comms working (but, unlike the movies, comms failure would not result in a "go to war" scenario).
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Old 09-17-2014, 06:54 PM   #56
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The way I've set it up is that the space plane was just about to be launched on a long-range test flight to Pensacola. It was literally minutes away from a take-off when the EMP happened.

I want the plane to make a "big entrance," since part of the reason for the flight is to let the president know that only a part of the U.S. has been affected.

Ideally, I would like the plane to make a low altitude flyby over the White House, but of course the pilot can' be sure that they have no functional anti-aircraft toys. He can't radio ahead, remember.

So, the idea is that he will fly over Ronald Reagan airport, then turn and come in for a landing.

I'm picturing something I saw at a Blue Angels exhibition. They had one of the planes fly very low and fast. It was dramatic in that you didn't hear the plane until the last second, and it was very loud.

I'm also picturing, from that same air show, a stealth bomber which flew over the crowd, then went almost straight up, turned, and came back over the crowd along the same path.

So, here's my question: How fast could he reasonably fly at a low altitude? Just under the speed of sound to avoid a sonic boom or even slower?
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Old 09-17-2014, 07:54 PM   #57
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I must say I thought I knew something about aviation and EMP, but compared to you all I realize I know very little. A fun thread looking forward to the book Al.
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Old 09-17-2014, 08:42 PM   #58
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Option 1: Send a supersonic cruise missile. Mach 3 so LA to DC in an hour. Replace the warhead with a hardened case that can hold a message. Crash it someplace where it's obvious to be picked up (the capital building, some military base, etc.).

Option 2: Submerged subs aren't affected by EMP. After the blast they could surface and use some sort of very low frequency radio communications.
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Old 09-17-2014, 08:50 PM   #59
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Why would you want to avoid the sonic boom? The size of the boom, if I remember, is governed by the weight of the A/C, the speed of the A/C and it's altitude. In 1968, we had a fire power demo out on the ranges north of Las Vegas. We brought three aircraft over supersonic, well that was the plan, an F-4, F-105, and an F-111. All were suppose to be at 500 ft agl. The F-4 was at about Mach 1.1, loud boom, the F-105 about mach 1.2, a bit louder. The F-111 was almost twice as heavy and came through about Mach 1.3 or a little faster, the boom blew out all the windows in the tower, the building and all the busses that transported people out. That was the practice. The actual show the F-111 was restricted to sub-sonic. OOOPs

Point is I think you could use the sonic boom an attention getter, with little or no damage on the ground.
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Old 09-18-2014, 04:06 AM   #60
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Option 1: Send a supersonic cruise missile. Mach 3 so LA to DC in an hour.
There are "supersonic cruise missiles", but they have ranges much too short for this--less than 200 miles, in general. High speeds while in the atmosphere just burn a lot of fuel.
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