Fred the Flying Egg
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© 2003 Brian F. Schreurs
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Reading this page will change your life!
The M-4-A Engineering and Development Syndicate faced its greatest challenge to date: build a vehicle capable of safely transporting one chicken egg from a great height to a rough landing where, presumably, the well-protected egg would then be cracked and cooked, all while the egg enjoyed a pleasant view of its descent.

To this end, MEDS designed the High-Impact Gravity-Propelled Egg Landing Module. MEDS then hired an ace egg test pilot, Fred the Flying Egg, to execute the first egged test flight (whether a semi-controlled free-fall constitutes "flight" is a philosophical exercise left to the reader).

Leveraging knowledge gleaned from the flight ability of Charlie Brown's kite and the landing ability of the Apollo modules, the HIGPELM essentially consists of three sub-units: the Egg Deceleration Minimizationator Superstructure, the Sudden Stop Impact Pylon Stabilization System, and the Air Flow Management Streamer Device.

MEDS used materials provided by Schaupp Aero Design & Tasty Burgers in the construction of the module. Different sections within MEDS worked on different module components, accelerating the completion of the final design.

The superstructure consists of a series of three cup-shaped capsules made of styrofoam tied together with the use of two transversely-applied steel rods recycled from paper clips. The two lower layers use high-density egg ballast -- which is highly dense, approximately equal to the stone found in gravel -- to ensure that the module is bottom-heavy, alternating with two layers of compressed-fiber "crush zones" designed to absorb the stresses of impact, much like a car bumper (but made of renewable resources just like newspaper). Two diagonally applied bands of contiguously adhesive strips help to ensure the capsule retains its shape during flight. The egg command center is comfortably lined with fibrous steel padding, carefully designed to hold the flight egg in place while still a) allowing limited motion so that the egg does not crush itself on impact, and b) affording an excellent mid-flight view.

Simulated flights indicated that the capsule alone was unlikely to land upright, compromising the flight egg. To counter this problem, MEDS designed the landing pylons. These cell-wall-reinforced pylons radiate outward and downward from six points along the circumference of the superstructure. They attach to the structure with adhesive strips via twin twisted-compressed-fiber base target area expansion bands that widen the footprint of the module considerably, increasing its in-flight stability and improving its chances of landing upright. The pylons correct for any marginal error in landing geometry by preventing the center of gravity from shifting beyond acceptable limits. A thin layer of fibrous steel padding along the very bottom of the superstructure helps to dissipate point stresses on impact. This entire assembly is sheathed in aerodynamically enhancing flexible compressed-fiber sheeting.

To aid in-flight stability, the streamers create positive drag on the upper portions of the module. These consist of two parallel aeronautically adaptive fiber-non-optic cables with numerous fan-based air foils anchored serially along the cables. These foils also employ careful artistry to intimidate industry competitors while providing a flutter of color for the enjoyment of the flight egg.

The unegged test flight, consisting of half the distance of the full flight, was quite successful. MEDS performed some reinforcement work on the pylons but otherwise left the design intact.

It should be noted that the test pilot, Fred the Flying Egg, was unhelpful during the development phase, almost to the point of belligerence. Fred refused to offer any help in the design of the module, provided no feedback during the unegged-flight analysis, and did little during the final test flight other than make faces at the development team. Beneath that cool outer shell he seemed to be cracking from the pressure -- perhaps his home life is scrambled and those issues have boiled over to the workplace. His inability to keep his sunny side up suggests that he is mentally fried. MEDS recommends finding a new pilot for future tests, perhaps Andy the Airborne Avocado or George the Free-Falling Gerbil.

Alas, the test flight was not the great success it should have been. The High-Impact Gravity-Propelled Egg Landing Module flew straight and true, performing flawlessly in flight. However, the landing left something to be desired. Upon impact, the Egg Deceleration Minimizationator Superstructure failed, blowing high-density egg ballast clear through the fibrous steel padding and the aerodynamically enhancing flexible compressed-fiber sheeting. This explosive loss of ballast caused the superstructure to shift beyond the capacity of the Sudden Stop Impact Pylon Stabilization System to correct; the #2 pylon collapsed and the entire module fell to its side. Fred the Flying Egg bonked the ground and suffered a concussion.

Clearly, the problem lies with the cup-shaped capsules provided by Schaupp Aero Design & Tasty Burgers. This vendor's use of inferior materials ultimately caused the loss of the vehicle. Attorneys are drafting a lawsuit on behalf of Fred the Flying Egg even now.

Had the flaw revealed itself in the unegged test flight, MEDS might have been able to alter the design of the module to increase the probability of a successful flight. Two design changes might have preserved the integrity of the superstructure, despite the vendor's engineering flaw, had the weakness been known:

  • Alter the layering of the ballast and the crush zones, with the intent to protect the superstructure from its own ballast.
  • Reinforce the superstructure with adhesive strips so that the stress of the ballast's sudden deceleration is distributed over a greater area of the superstructure.

To date, the cost of the HIGPELM has been $5 for materials and $135 for design and engineering, for a total module cost of $140. Successfully completing this effort will require additional funding and, of course, a lot more help from MEDS.