The choice: Air-breathers vs. boost glide
Q. Your friend the novelist has asked you to finish the climactic scene of a thriller. The story is set in the near future and centers on a nuclear weapon that’s gone missing and is designed to deliver lethal radiation via the winds upstream of a target. The climax begins with the CIA director telling the president that the weapon has been located aboard a container ship in the Pacific Ocean. Terrorists are minutes away from exploding the weapon to deliver lethal fallout along the West Coast. No U.S. or allied warplanes or vessels are in range. The president faces a choice: Her political party forced hypersonic air-breathing weapons through Congress, and the opposition party did the same for rocket-boosted glide versions. Neither party funded operations adequately, and so only one kind of weapon can be launched at a time. The president asks about launching the air-breathers. The political appointees nod, but one general’s back stiffens: “Madam President, due to the time constraint, boost glide is the only choice we have.” What should happen next to save the West Coast?
Draft a response of no more than 250 words and email it by noon Eastern Sept. 15 to email@example.com for a chance to have it published in the October issue.
CLAIMING AN AVIATION FIRST: We asked you to explain, based on a question submitted by Lone Star Analysis, a software, technology and system engineering firm, why there’s some debate over who should be deemed the first U.S. naval aviator. WINNER: Both Eugene Ely and Ted Ellyson were groundbreaking naval pilots during the early days of aviation. Eugene Ely was the first aviator to take off and land on a ship. He is considered the father of naval carrier aviation. However, he was not the first naval pilot. That honor goes to Ted “Spuds” Ellyson. While his first flight in January 1911 resulted in a crash landing on a wing, he would earn pilot certificate No. 28 later in the year, and the U.S. Navy would eventually name him Naval Aviator No. 1. Ironically, both of these aviators perished in aircraft crashes — Ellyson in 1928 at age 44 in a crash in the Chesapeake Bay and Ely in October 1911 at age 25, during an exhibition in Macon, Georgia.
Thomas “Tav” Taverney
Taverney is a retired U.S. Air Force major general and an AIAA senior member who lives in La Habra Heights, California.