IWSG : Researching Aircraft

Posted on May 3, 2017
Time for a post for the IWSG blog hop, hosted by Alex Cavanaugh, where writers talk about their insecurities in writing, publishing, and other related topics.  Every month, Alex posts a question or topic of discussion. May 3 Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

If you've read my suspense novels, Distant Origins or The Box Of Souls, you will note that I include the U.S. military and first responders in most of the action scenes. It just makes sense in today's world. If there is a monumental explosion of any sort in any part of the United States, the military or first response will get involved. It's hard to exclude them, even if the story is based on supernatural forces.

And, I sort of have a soft spot for servicemen. Maybe it's because my brother still serves in the Army Reserve even after 20 years and 3 tours in middle eastern countries. He's lost a couple of friends out there, and is still friends with his squad mates. That sense of service, to help people, is rare, so when I see it in military officer, police officers, firemen, rescue workers, etc.... it gives me hope in humanity. They have to be part of the solution to my novels. My protagonists are trying to save the world, and they do it with those who serve.

This requires lots of research on weaponry, military vehicles, and military or service protocols. How do we get weapons? How do we gain access to vehicles? Who gets them?  What bases hold what kind of vehicles. Which bases are accessible by civilian authorities? Etc. Lot's of questions.

My favorite topic of research in this field? Aircraft.

For The Box Of Souls, the military flies around giant dragons in an effort to help our protagonist contain/control them. Before I wrote any of those scenes, I needed to find if there were aircraft that would be agile and nimble enough to take on the inconsistent flying nature of the dragons, and possibly out fly them at their top speed. I found out some helicopters do an amazing job at being nimble in the way I needed for the story.
Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter

I also needed to research who would have access to such aircraft during times of emergencies. Lots of protocol, depending where you are located and what branch of military you're from. I even had responses by retired military folks on a few questions I posed on Yahoo about distance coverage on a single tank, what the protocol is for refueling to continue a cross country flight in small planes, aircraft licences, etc. It's amazing how helpful people want to be. I was very thankful.

As a result, I created a ton of pencil sketches of city to city flight maps and which aircraft would be able to cover ground during the scenes. Which airports and military bases hold such aircraft and have them readily available. I don't necessarily go into too much detail in the story, but it's good to know the scenes are realistic. It's pretty interesting stuff.

G650 Exterior. 
Now, for the 2nd book The Onyx Ring, I had to research flight lengths and speeds of different commercial airplanes versus private aircraft such as the Gulfstream G650 and Cessna Citation X. Three characters in different parts of the world are trying to get to the same place through any means necessary. They don't need military clearance or have to follow protocols to gain access to these private jets; these characters have powers of manipulation, and they get the pilots and airport personnel to do pretty much what they want.

But online research has its drawbacks.

Some sites claim the G650 can go up to 800mph, which would make a flight from west coast to east coast in less than 4 hours. Some sites claim most model's top speed is more like 600mph, based on cabin length, wing span, weight carried, and other factors. I had to calculate nautical miles and distance and flight plans once again.

Sample design of the G650 Interior.
And then there are scenes that occur inside the jets, so I had to research sizes of the cabins, design layouts, and total passengers based on the jet's model and so on. How many flight attendants, food availability, etc.

I have to say, though, that after researching how elegant and luxurious these private jets are, and how much time you save on each flight, I'm a little jealous. I will probably never be able to afford such travel luxuries, but it makes me hate being in a commercial airliner with hundreds of other people stuck in the air longer than necessary.

If only we could teleport. Maybe in another sci fi novel. :-D

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1 comment:

  1. I'm very impressed! The technical things in the military are SO hard to understand and write about with authority. I tried it once, and literally trunked the book coz I just couldn't handle the deets. Go you!!