Monday, September 29, 2008

Punching Out

I'm sure a lot of you have seen "The Right Stuff" in which Chuck Yeager is featured prominently. One of his exploits was to take the third of three NF104 "Starfighters" to the limit (21 miles high) and destroy it, after 40 days of operational life. Chuck is pictured here less than a week before "Punching Out" at high altitude and turning the 104 into twisted burning scrap at the bottom of a crater.

Chuck lived.

One would hope that we will as well.

The image that constantly comes to mind when thinking about the current "economic crisis" is that of General Yeager pushing his NF104 to the limit, past the limit, and living through it. The wreckage was not pretty.

The official explanation of the cause?

"The crash was a spin that resulted from excessive angle of attack and lack of aircraft response. The excessive angle of attack was not caused by pilot input but by a gyroscopic condition set up by the J79 engine spooling after shut down for the rocket-powered zoom climb phase."

Paraphrased? An unpowered high speed cockpit attached to a still spinning turbine has a tendency to tumble. No power is worse than no control as the twitching dead thing in back of you throws you in directions you didn't want to go.

Economies are like that. When you demand too much performance out of the economy it can do quite well for a while, until somewhere past or at the limit, it flames out and then drags you down. This is going to be a record high altitude bailout. Let's hope the favor of God that smiled on Chuck that day, smiles on us.

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