Big ol’ jet airliner

Hawai’i is 2400 miles from California and 3800 miles from Japan. It is literally in the middle of nowhere. It is one the most remote places on earth, yet it is inhabited by 1.5 million people.

How do people live in such a place, let alone have a modern civilization?

Simple: jet fuel. Hawai’i consumes a lot of jet fuel. Sixty percent of all the petroleum products consumed in the Aloha State are jet fuels. There’s obviously a big military presence in Hawai’i and one expects they are big consumers of both aviation and marine fuels.

But one has to get to Hawai’i first, and that means jet travel. Going by boat means at least five or six days. That’s too slow for modern folks.

Jet fuel is mostly kerosene-based. Kerosene is sometimes called paraffin or lamp oil. Kerosene is distilled from crude oil between 150 and 275 degrees Celsius. It’s about 80% as dense as water. Most of the hydrocarbons in kerosene contain between nine and twenty carbon atoms per molecule.

Jet fuel is not aviation gasoline (“av gas”). That stuff is used in internal combustion, spark-fired engines. Av gas fuels your buddy’s Cessna and is similar to motor vehicle gas. Jet fuel is more like diesel.

Big jets rely on gas turbine engines. They are called turbofans because they use a big fan or a set of fans to suck air into the combustion chamber and then expel the exhaust to provide thrust.

A passenger jet weighs 400 to 500 tons. A Ford F-150 weighs about two tons, so a jetliner is about the same as 200+ pickups! No wonder they need turbofans.

A jetliner is a mini-civilization. It takes a portion of the populace (and all their needs) to someplace else and promises to bring them home again. Once a jetliner lands on your shores there’s no going back. You are now connected to the rest of the world. And the jetliner leaves people behind who make sure the next jets arrive (and depart) safely. Now your land has been colonized by the jetliner people and life will never be the same.

The jetliner people made Hawai’i into the 50th state. That’s good for me because I’m an American and I can go to Hawai’i without much trouble. That is, if you don’t consider gigantic jets and airports “much trouble.” I’m jetliner-ing to the Big Island tomorrow and I’ll let you know how things are working out there.

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