Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Small Error of Fact

If the television craze continues with the present level of programs, we are destined to have a nation of morons. ~ Daniel Marsh, 1950

We have fulfilled our destiny.

As I have said on many occasions, my television viewing is pretty much limited to the Discovery-History axis of channels, with an occasional side trip to sports, very old movies, or cartoons. I have made it clear that I thought that channels that claim to be presenting programs about history or science have a certain duty to get stuff right. History International blew that one magnificently.

The show was Mega Movers, which as far as I can see should be on HGTV or something, since it doesn't have a lot to do with the history of anything. A lot of the programming these days on the Discovery-History axis seems to have strayed a long way from the original focus of those networks. What are we discovering from Survivorman, exactly (which is now boring us for entire evenings on Discovery and the Science Channel)? Do they really expect us to believe that the guy is in real danger and completely out of communication? I don't believe that for a second.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Discovery found some character named Bear Gryls, who was such a phony that he and his crew were camping out at local motels.

Then there are the reality shows like Deadliest Catch, Axmen (and an almost identical show whose name I forget), and Ice Road Truckers. These programs do appear to show real events, but the real attraction seems to be the endless bleeping of the participants' dialog. The other night, I wondered why the Son was watching a program on telegraphy, since all I heard coming from the set he was watching was Morse code beeps. It wasn't Morse code; it was just an endless stream of bleeped expletives coming from some idiot on a crab boat.

What meaningful prgramming.

Remember The Learning Channel? It became TLC, because when you turn a channel into a freak show, there's not a lot of learning going on.

At any rate, the Mega Movers were moving a full-size copy of a space station module to one of the space centers so they'd be able to train astornauts and replicate problems that might be occurring on the real article. To do this, NASA uses an aircraft designated as the 377SGT Turboprop, better known as the Super Guppy, for reasons that should be apparent. Well, sort of. Personally, I'd have called it the Baluga whale (which is what Airbus calls their own updated version).

Originally, there was simply the Pregnant Guppy, which was pretty darn big, but needs changed and the Pregnant Guppy got replaced by the Very Pregnant Guppy. At this point, someone decided that pregnant airplanes didn't cut it, so the name was changed to Super Guppy.

During the Mega Movers episode, the difficulties of flying a whale were made obvious. After all, you have a massively loaded aircraft with the cross-section of a watermelon. Crosswinds at takeoff or landing are potentially deadly for such a monster, so the pilots have to be a skilled bunch. The link to the Pregnant Guppy is worth a read because it details how close a little town in the Mojave Desert came close to be being obliterated by the maiden flight of the expectant fish.

Yet, the show went on to say, the plane was so well built that it survived a near catastrophe. It seems that during a test flight in the Mojave, part of the cargo canopy got ripped off, yet the pilots managed to land the plane. Now that's some mighty fancy flying, Wilbur.

Except that it evidently didn't happen, at least not that I can find. Read the extremely detailed article on the Pregnant Guppy again. Go ahead, I'll wait. Not a single mention of the canopy getting ripped off either the Pregnant or Super Guppies. I looked at several sites, yet not a one, including the Wiki articles, mentioned landing a Guppy with major damage to the canopy. The Super Guppy link has, buried way down in the page, a picture of some wing damage sustained in a test, but no references to canopy damage.

I don't know where Mega Movers got their information, but it would appear that the photo they showed may not have been in-flight damage. It's easy to imagine a lot of ways that the canopy could be torn up on the ground, perhaps during a loading operation.

Now, you might be inclined to ask why I even bothered to take the time to fact-check such a small item from an otherwise fairly dull program. Well, when they described the incident, they said the canopy came off during a test flight in the Mojave Desert. They then presented an old piece of film showing a plane in the distance slowly descending. To begin with, the plane's profile didn't look the least bit pregnant. But there was a more telling issue. As the plane flew over the Mojave, which is in California, for those of you unfamiliar with North American geography, it passed behind some familiar structures.

It seems that Mega Movers think that the Mojave Desert is home to the Pyramids of Giza.

For those of you who have fulfilled your destiny, Giza is in Egypt.

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