I needed a break from something I was working on so I hit the Random Article button on Wikipedia’s homepage.
I landed on “List of longest runways“. I like the lists on Wikipedia, and this one had potential to contain something interesting. At 16,000 ft Denver International Airport has the longest commercial runway in the US. Apparently planes need more room to land at higher altitudes. But that wasn’t the really interesting fact on the list. That was right at the top – the number one spot, longest runway in the world – Area 51 (23,270 ft).
Naturally I clicked the link for Area 51. I read a little about it’s history and some of the other names used to describe the area – Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, Home Base, Watertown Strip, Groom Lake, and Homey Airport. Then I was distracted by a mention of the SR-71 Blackbird. I’ve long been fascinated by that plane. It’s an absolutely amazing plane designed in the 1960s that did Mach 3 at 80,000 feet. It even looked cool.
The Area 51 article mentioned an interceptor variant called the Lockheed YF-12. I read about that plane’s history and specs for a while, then jumped to the article on Pratt & Whitney, the engine maker. I learned a few interesting things about Pratt & Whitney. I didn’t realize they were an American company, or that they are one of the big three aero-engine manufacturers (along with General Electric and Rolls-Royce), or that they once made engines for Formula One. They are now owned by United Technologies, which also owns Carrier (A/C), Otis Elevators, and Sikorsky Aircraft. I was temped to go on to read about Sikorsky Aircraft, but had to draw the line somewhere.
Next time you have time to kill check out a Random Article on wikipedia and see where it takes you. Maybe you’ll learn something.