NerdGuy Fridays: Dispatches from a Writer's Brain - M. L. Buchman

NerdGuy Fridays #4: cargo planes, turkeys ,and more turkeys

Cargo Planes

I seem to be writing a lot about big cargo planes at the moment. Don’t worry, I’ll get over that soon…maybe.

These are fascinating machines. If you ever want to boggle your mind a bit, find the perimeter road of some major runway, then park right under the end of the runway. I’m always awed at our ability to throw massive objects into the sky as if it’s somehow a normal thing to do. A320s, 737s, 767s, Bombardier… It’s just amazing to watch the endless stream of them roaring aloft.

If you’re lucky, you might see a 747-800F (freighter–the biggest production plane flying today) or a rare Antonov AN-124 Ruslan Condor (now #2). If you’re near certain military bases (or can make it to an airshow–I’ll be at the one in New Brunswick, Maine this August if you want to geek out together), you’ll hopefully see the big 3: C-130 Hercules (we’ll meet one in Miranda Chase #3, Condor (which is mostly about the AN-124 Condor), and really get to know it in #4 Ghostrider), the C-17 Globemaster III, or the monster C-5 Galaxy (which is also in #3 but is featured in the Miranda Chase origin story Galaxy–available exclusively in an upcoming collection called Origins of Honor.) By pure chance, both Condor and Origins of Honor release on March 10th, 2020. (Just sayin’ you might want to pre-order them now.)

Anyway, imagine if you will that a plane can take off weighing almost a million pounds (460 tons!). In addition to the plane itself and the fuel it needs, it can carry a pair of 70-ton Abrams M-1 main battle tanks. These are the tanks that are so heavy, President Trump was told he couldn’t have them in his military parade because they would break all of the bridges around DC. And the C-5 can deliver its cargo up to 8,000 miles away, not counting mid-air refueling.

The cargo bay is forty yards long, 13.5′ (1-1/3 stories) high, and as wide as a two-land road. In 1903, the Wright Flyer, with a maximum take-off weight of 745 pounds, flew thirty yards. The whole flight would have fit inside the cargo bay (except the wings were a bit too wide). And even in it greatest flight–in which it reached an altitude of thirty feet–it wouldn’t have cleared a C-5 Galaxy’s fuselage without at least banging on the roof.

Go to an airport, sit at the end of a runway, and witness the amazing things we can do.


So, we have several flocks of wild turkeys who live in our neighborhood. (It’s Massachusetts, so it seems appropriate.) You never knew quite when you’re going to be tooling along down a narrow two-lane, winding through the trees… And slam to a screeching halt because the flock has decided that its time to cross the road.

Sometimes, when my wife and I are out walking, we’ll hear them calling to one another. We’ll peek over a hedge so that we can wave at them. (They probably don’t care but it cheers us up.) One time we heard a very odd turkey call in a wide-open yard–like it was strangling on a grape or something (yes, I’m thinking of that scene from one of my favorite books, The World According to Garp). But there were no turkeys. We kept looking for them, wondering what was going on. We finally spotted a crow, sitting in a tree above our heads, making a turkey call. If we hadn’t seen its beak moving, we wouldn’t have believed it, but its true. (Here’s a poor example, right at 6-8 seconds in if you listen carefully:

Since we’re talking turkeys

And more on that topic, we often wondered where they nested at night as we also have fox and coyote around here.

One evening just a week or so ago, I was out walking in the chill evening…a really lovely time with just amazing light. It’s also a great time to walk alone and brainstorm on a book.

Anyway, I was startled by the sudden movement of a big bird. I looked up and found the answer to my question.

Turkeys in trees
A flock of turkeys roosting 30+ feet up in the trees. (Take that Mr. Coyote.)
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6 thoughts on “NerdGuy Fridays #4: cargo planes, turkeys ,and more turkeys”

  1. Deborah L Waskom

    I discovered some of your books on HOOPLA last week. You are my new favorite author,
    thank you for sharing your gift with us.

  2. Penelope Crampton

    When I lived in Hawaii in the late 1970’s (my husband was stationed at Pearl Harbor as active duty Navy) we visited a Hickham Air Force Base Air show and got to walk up the ramp of a C-5 on display, one of the many aircraft there to oooo and aaaah over. Very impressive, Huge inside. I never forgot that particular piece of air wizardry…Now I live in Seattle in a house situated under Sea-Tac airpaths, north of Boeing, near the Coast Guard station downtown, and witness daily just about every kind of aircraft available to humanity right here in my backyard….Simply amazing.

    1. Air wizardy, exactly! Keep an eye out for the JBLM Air Show and Warrior Expo in Tacoma. It’s sporadic but incredible. I attended in 2016 and that’s when I walked each of the big planes, sat in the helos I’d been writing about for 8 years by that point, and generally had a great time. I don’t see it on the 2020 calendar, so maybe 2022? Yes to SeaTac. If you can still go up North Air Cargo road and park along S 156th Way or Reba Lake, go when they’re departing to the North (typically April-October based on prevailing winds), bring a picnic and just watch. It’s an amazing experience.

    1. I know! It’s so amazing to think about. Really puts it in perspective for me. This is the kind of thing we can achieve! And that’s just in the tiny slice of planes, not even aviation. Aviation includes missions to Mars, solar flybys, probes that have truly left the solar system, giant space telescopes…imagine Galileo barely able to discern the first 4 moons of Jupiter (of the current 79) and the “flowing canals” of Mars versus Hubble and soon the James Webb seeking the edges of the universe? We can do such incredible things!

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