I'd like to preemptively explain the title "Knots per hour" before someone points out that I'm using the wrong unit of measurement for airspeed and am therefore totally ignorant about all things airplane. I admit that I'm clueless when it comes to airplanes, but I have learned that airspeed is measured in knots. A knot actually means one nautical mile per hour, and is how you measure speed and distance when you're talking about airplanes (or ships). Saying "knots per hour" would be like saying "one nautical mile per hour per hour" which would be a unit of acceleration (according to Mike. I may be a bit of a math nerd, but that's not something I would ever know on my own). If you want to appear knowledgeable in the world of aviation, you always have to use the term "knots" correctly. It seems that the types of people who are into airplanes are also the type of people who really care of expressing things in the appropriate units.
So, now that we all know that we should be saying knots, let me explain why I decided to use the wrong term so prominently on this website. The first reason is that "knots per hour" is an inside joke in our house. The first several years that Mike and I were together, my life was a little bit crazy. I spent our first year together planning a regional conference for a professional organization that I'm part of. Months before the conference actually happened, I also decided that it was a really great time to start grad school. During all of this I was also working full time at a stressful job, so needless to say the next few years were a wee bit busy for me.
When I finally finished my master's degree, I really wanted to show Mike how much I appreciated all of his support, so I bought us tickets to see the Red Bull Air Races in Las Vegas. Let me just say that the Air Races are an amazing experience. Even with my limited understanding of flying, it's easy to appreciate just how skilled the pilots are. Now, as with any live sporting event, there can be a lot of downtime while you're sitting in the stands so there are some commentators on hand to provide information and entertainment. Two gentlemen were providing commentary that weekend. The first was very knowledgeable about aviation and the second, not so much.
In the Air Races, pilots must enter the course under a certain speed (200 knots) or receive a time penalty. As each race takes around 55 seconds, a 2 second penalty can be the difference between progressing to the next round and being eliminated. The pilots are so skilled that they often enter the track at 198 or 199 knots, and for the novice spectator it's one aspect of the race that's easy to appreciate. Throughout the race, the second (less knowledgeable) commentator repeatedly (and incorrectly) used the phrase "knots per hour" to describe the pilot's entry speed. Even though the mistake had been pointed out and explained by the more knowledgeable commentator, the second commentator never did get it right. After two days of the same mistake, it became a running joke and when I was naming the blog, it seemed like "knots per hour" was the obvious choice.
The second reason I think "knots per hour" is a good name is because it reflects my ignorance as we begin this endeavor. Aviation people have their own lingo and a saying something like knots per hour is the kind of mistake that identifies you as a rookie outsider. The world of aviation is full of words and phrases that I don't understand. What the heck is an "empennage"? (Thanks to Google for helping me figure out how to spell that word. This whole time I have been thinking it was epinage.) Glad you asked - that would be the tail section of the airplane. Did you know that it had its own special name? Me either! Since this blog is about an outsider's perspective on the building process, I thought it was appropriate to acknowledge my novice status. The point isn't that I appear knowledgeable about what's going on, it's that I'm learning as I go and I'm going to make lots of mistakes. For the vast majority of us who haven't been reading airplane magazines since we were kids, we can figure this whole thing out together as we go.
Empennage - the tail section, or rear section of the body, of an airplane.