After Hours

Geek Trivia: The Quibble of the Week for January 1

This week's quibble comes once again from the December 4 edition of Geek Trivia, "(Sonic) boom or bust."

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week's Geek Trivia, "Editorial oversight," just post it in the discussion area. Every week, yours truly will choose the best quibble from the assembled masses and discuss it in a future edition of Geek Trivia.

This week's quibble comes from the December 4 edition of Geek Trivia, "(Sonic) boom or bust." TechRepublic member turbinepilot questioned the legitimacy of classifying SpaceShipOne as a conventional aircraft.

"My gut reaction is that SpaceShipOne does not qualify as an aircraft since its ascent is due to thrust, not lift from the wings. On descent, I'll grant that it does glide, though not very well."

Before I could jump in, member fred_wagner beat me to the punch in responding.

"If memory serves, SpaceShipOne is carried aloft by another Rutan creation, White Knight, and is launched like the X-15 was, being dropped from its mothership, and then lights its rocket. For spaceflight, it then climbs straight up, but for speed runs, it would keep the nose more level and let it build. It's a plane, just like the X-15 was."

You're quite right, sir: SpaceShipOne qualifies for FAI records under the same auspices as the North American X-15 and the Bell X-1, and the history books still list the latter as the first aircraft to break the sound barrier. Thanks for sparking the conversation, and keep those quibbles coming.

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About Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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