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[Edit: dangit, that should be "Or, that's *A* big fraggin' plane." Can't seem to edit subject lines, though.]

[I originally wrote this...well, for Shadowrun, actually, but I first gave it stats for Battletech, and when I was tweaking the fluff, I realized these giant, flying wings worked pretty well in Battletech. They're actually economical in BT. They're a "mere" billion C-bills, which can be paid for by the residents. (Finding 1000 people to pay for 1 million CB apartments isn't hard. Look how many pay 2-3 million for good homes in the US.) At a billion C-bills each, they probably could pay for themselves through their intended role of ferrying airliners across oceans, both by fuel savings and tourist spending while aboard.

Of course, the question, what good is a giant flying wing in BT? Or SR for that matter? Why should the PCs care about it? Well, these giant flying wings are more than just a mass people mover like an airliner or bullet train. Battletech might be all about blowing shit up, but there are thousands of pages of background and setting material that just beg to be explored. If you play the Mechwarrior RPG, you'll probably have a chance to walk your character through some of that exotic scenery, and the GM will need to fill in the details. This is a backdrop for that setting, a stately cruise ship in the skies, for your PCs to explore, mingle, and politick in. It's a place to rub shoulders with the Glitterati and The Powers That Be of the Inner Sphere, or hunt/be hunted in a desperate game of spy-vs-spy. In Shadowrun, it's even clearer: the game is all about spy-vs-spy (or runner vs runner), and super wings are filled with permanent, rich residents. If you want a complete change of scenery for your runners, you'd have to go to orbit or deep underwater to get more exotic than a super wing.

Regrettably, it looks like these giant flying wings in SR have less economic justification than in BT. I could easily see the development costs being in tens or hundreds of billions of nuyen, and each of the super wings costing in the billions or low tens of billions of nuyen. In BT, 35000-ton aerodyne dropships are possible; in SR, the largest planes might be a few hundred tons. At least there's a technical justification in SR: vehicles need to be big to be fusion powered. I don't think HSCTs quite manage that scale.

Oh, well. It just means you need to suspend your disbelief to use this exotic setting.]


Imagine a Chippewa (the 90-ton BT aerospace fighter) that had a pointed nose...or the XB-47 jet-powered flying wing of yesteryear. Imagine it with a 500-meter wingspan and nearly 300 meters long from nose to tail elevator plane.

Below, tiny petroleum-burning jumbo jets approach the fusion-powered behemoth. Glittering, barely visible cables snake down to them. Not flapping in the breeze at all, the grapple at the end of the cable has control fins to steer in for an effortless capture of nose hooks on the jumbos and HSCTs. The passenger-laden jumbo is pulled smoothly through the turbulent boundary layer of air below the titanic flying wing and nestled into a conformal dock on the underside of the flying wing. Over a half dozen other jumbos are docking two at a time, and the entire operation will be done in minutes.

After the last of the jumbos dock and as passengers begin to disembark into the cavernous interior of the "Super Wing," the fusion engines that are the entire point of the Super Wing double, then triple their output. Electric ducted fans ten meters across adjust their pitch and spin faster, carrying the Super Wing from the low altitude rendezvous run to the cruising altitude of 20 kilometers.

On the grand promenade, the thousands of newly boarded passengers immediately (and with little decorum) rush for the leading edge of the Super Wing. (A half dozen major control surfaces flex and shift along the Super Wing to adjust for the movement of the hundreds of tons of organic ballast. Simultaneously, hundreds of minor panels and air vents along the broad, broad back of the
Super Wing work to smooth out the altered air flow.) At the front of the plane, the passengers (who will not not notice a wobble from their stampede - the huge plane is that precise in maintaining an even keel) find a string of giant windows framed in faux gothic "iron" columns (hardshelled composites, actually), some of the windows as much as five meters tall. From here, they can look down at the receding world below.

The magical moments are the passage through the clouds, towering columns of glorious white vapor that dwarf even the Super Wing, and finally leveling off at twenty kilometers, far above even the cloud deck. The cafes and stores behind them are much like the ones they left in the airport, but the passengers couldn't sip coffee or chase shrieking children in the airport with such a view.

The passengers have 6 hours on this flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Flights across the Pacific would take up to 20 hours to cross, and they would probably visit a sleeper section of the Super Wing on such a flight. But for 6 hours, the passengers will sit and gaze at an incredible view in an incredible vehicle. Except for the drone of conversation and noise of a crowd, the Super Wing's interior is much quieter than the noisy little jumbo jets they just left.

Mingling with the passengers, the tourists, are the permanent residents of the Super Wing. They live in the apartment towers that are the vertical stabilizers, gazing down at a 720kph sculpture of stainless steel. Because the stern of the stabilizers are mobile (they are the Super Wing's 100-meter tall rudders, of course), each of these very wealthy residents lives in the leading edge of the rudders. That leading edge is wholly transparent like a glass-walled skyscraper, a panoramic window that wraps the 5-meter wide stabilizer from side to side. Their view is infinitely better than that of the economy-class tourist drones below in the main wing. They can see occupants in the other stabilizer a football field away, or out into the vastness of the sky to the other side, ahead across the cloudscape, or even quite a way behind the vessel, a 300-degree arc of vision when they are in the very leading edge of the stabilizer. The insulated transparent smart materials of the windows actively damp out even the faintest whisper of the 720kph slipstream. Even further overhead, the residents have their own, smaller promenade in the horizontal elevator between the two vertical stabilizers.

The tourists would actually be surprised to find fast food restaurants and bland business offices in those upper decks, so exclusive to the rich and famous who live on the Super Wing. The residents pay a fortune for the "real estate," so they don't want to pay a fortune for everyday expenses, like a quick taco. If they want fancy eatin', they'll go down to the overpriced tourist trap restaurants in the main wing (which are 5-star, even if not worth the price). There are exclusive corporate offices in the upper decks and the stabilizers, of course. The scenery and prestige are just too much to pass up.

In the heart of the wing, in the thickest, 25-meter deep middle, two of three fusion reactors are operating at seventy-five percent of their capacity. They are supplying the power to not only lift 35000 tons of steel and titanium to an altitude twenty kilometers, but also are delivering the power to fight the drag of 720kph air flowing over more than twenty-five thousand square meters of surface area. No small part of their power goes into pressurizing the vast volumes of the Super Wing and keeping it habitable. The reactors' third sibling is currently inactive as twenty crewmen pull out one of the twenty-ton containment coils, a superconductor with badly helium-sputtered insulation. The replacement coil was ferried up on another airplane days ago and awaits in another part of the cavernous engineering bay. This huge chamber brings to mind a football stadium with its size. It is not a dark dungeon one might imagine in the bowels of a gothic-themed Super Wing. Indeed, neither is it noisy. If the workmen had not been maneuvering twenty tons of metal (apparently maneuvering the coil as much with their curses as the overhead crane), it would be one of the quietest parts of Super Wing. The fusion reactors do not thrum or boom or like cinematic "warp drives". The liquid sodium coolant pumps circulate the metal with electromagnetic coils - there are no whirring motors or gearboxes to add noise. Air circulation, as elsewhere in the Super Wing, is accomplished with carefully shaped and damped vents.

There are noisy parts of the Super Wing. Enclosed within meters-wide ducts running from bow to stern are dozens of electrically-powered, ducted fans. Most are operating just fine, but there are extras (just as with the fusion engines) in case of trouble or routine maintenance. There is some repair work today: the starboard number three bank of fans is all out of commission. A suicidal flock of large birds launched a kamikaze assault while the Super Wing was picking up airliners, and managed to ding and dent quite a few of the 5-meter tall compressor blades. The fan bank's inlet ports and exhaust ports are all closed now. Small workers move about the gleaming metal duct. They use cranes to dismount damaged blades, which will be repaired, or new ones made, in the Super Wing's machine shops. This is truly the least of the Super Wing's internal repair capabilities, the watching tourists are told. The frame of the Super Wing has extra trusses and spars, more than it needs to stay together. An old or damaged spar (yes, one of those huge I-beams you see overhead in the Grand Promenade) can be dismounted for reworking and repair.

Now, in just a few more hours, the stewards will shuffle the herd of tourists back to their planes. The jumbo aircraft will detach at twenty kilometers altitude and almost glide to a landing at the airports the Super Wing flies over. When all the aircraft are free, the Super Wing will drop to a mere three kilometers above the ground and, at the same time, conduct its lumbering turn
over a one hundred kilometer radius. It will pick up another, new dozen of jumbo jets and carry them across the ocean again, back to the continent whence it came.

[pardon any lapses into Battletech jargon; I was explaining BT stats here]

The Super Wing is powered by a fusion engine fit for a dropship. The MHD power taps of the three fusion reactors supply abundant electricity to the massive, ducted fans buried in the wing. The Super Wing thus has no fuel requirements (the 1500 tons of kerosene it carries are for visiting aircraft) and has a reasonable, if subsonic, speed, but its acceleration is low (it can accelerate by 3.25kph per second, taking 200 seconds turns to reach its normal cruising speed). The Super Wing's turn radius is typically 100km at its cruising speed, though it can turn more sharply (this would just disturb the passengers).

The fusion engine consists of 3 reactors, any two of which can maintain up to 900kph, or any one of which can maintain up to 540kph. The multitudes of fans also include spares that can be taken out of service for repair either in their ducts (in which case the ducts are closed off to provide a pressurized working environment) or dismounted and moved on in-wing trolleys to the Super Wing's very complete machine shop. Most Super Wing microtronic and mechanical systems can be built from scratch in those machine shops, but most repairs are made with stockpiles of spare parts. Fusion engine components generally require shipment from the ground. (One of the many commercial air freighters that dock with the Super Wing will deliver the components; delays for spare part delivery are rarely more than 12 hours.) As noted in the tour, the Super Wing's framework is redundant, allowing sections to be repaired in flight. A handful of systems (like the massive electromagnetic pistons that move the main control surfaces) can be repaired internally, but in unpressurized areas - depending on the length of the repair, this is either done on the half hour to hour the Super Wing is at low altitude picking up new visiting aircraft, or the work is performed with oxygen masks and insulated clothes at cruising altitudes. Very few systems other the hull itself cannot be withdrawn into the Super Wing for repair. In the case of the hull, the Super Wing typically spends an extended period at 3 kilometers of altitude and a "mere" 250kph-300kph. Windbreaks are raised (from purpose-built slots in the hull) and workers perform the repairs in the shelter of the break.

Defensively...well, the Super Wing has no more integral defenses than a typical ocean-going cruise liner. It's a civilian airliner, not a fighter. It certainly has the tonnage for weapons, ECM, ECCM, etc. It does have 6 fighter bays (well, underside fighter docks), but these typically hold 4 to 6 "Inter-Wing Shuttles" that make emergency ground visits or transfer people directly between Super Wings. Some actually do carry fighters. There are no escape pods or life boats in the dropship sense. The theory is that a Super Wing will either be able to land (see below) or will fail catastrophically if attacked. As a seaplane, the Super Wing does have ocean-going lifeboats (and seat cushion floatation devices) for after it lands.

The Super Wing picks up planes at an altitude of 3000m, and at about 300kph. The intent of this "low and slow" pick-up is to minimize the most fuel-expensive part of an airliner's flight: takeoff and climb to cruising altitude. Planes dock by being snagged by a triplet of steerable cables. The nose is snagged first, followed by the wing tips, then the plane is reeled in through the considerable boundary layer of the Super Wing. Near the Super Wing, a large mechanical arm grabs the mid-section of the of the planes and pulls it firmly into place. (Obviously, the planes involved required modification to work with the Super Wing.) "Into place" is a more-or-less conformal alcove in the underside of the Super Wing where pressurized docking tunnels allow passengers to enter the Super Wing. Planes suitable for docking with the Super Wing typically have double tails rather than a single large rudder - the Super Wing's narrowest dimension is its height, and large jumbo jet tails could enter quite a ways through the thickness of the Super Wing towards its wingtips. Available docking space is another problem - while the Super Wing is big, it cannot fit jumbo jets internally. (The largest available spot in the center of the wing is occupied by the engine room.) This limits the Super Wing to carrying about a dozen jumbo jets.

After picking up its load of jets, the Super Wing climbs to a cruising altitude of 20km. It will drop off its load of jets at 20km, too, before diving to collect the next load of jets for the return trip. From 20km, the dropped jets nearly glide to a landing.

Landing and takeoff. In an ideal world, a Super Wing will takeoff once and land once in its operational lifetime. About 70% of all Super Wings achieve this goal, while the others land for more extensive maintenance, repairs, or upgrades than is possible in the air. Later versions are becoming more reliable. The Super Wing is a seaplane - this avoids the trouble of finding airstrips able to handle the behemoth. It has 5 fixed pontoons almost flush with its body. Each is nearly the size of a naval corvette. During liftoff, the Super Wing uses air injection under its pontoons to help break free of the water. With a surprisingly low stall speed (110kph), getting airborne is rather easier than might be suspected. However, the roaring engines and clouds of water are always spectacular. Likewise, on landing, the Super Wing often must work to defeat the wing-in-ground effect, or it can coast for kilometers on the cushion of air trapped under its wings.

The interior of the Super Wing, free as it is from fuel tankage, has a lot of open space. Requirements for machinery and access ways make the rear half of the Super Wing non-accessible to visitors (imagine a gleaming, clean, metallic-walled factory space), while the large center is occupied by the power plants. This leaves about a quarter of the volume for passengers, who must still compete with the fore-to-aft fan ducts for space.

The passenger space is up to four decks near the front of the wing, feature a promenade over 600 meters long. (Remember: the wing is angled, so the actual length for the promenade is longer than the wingspan.) The promenade is filled with stores and "open air" cafes; hotel rooms with balconies overlooking the promenade are also here. Styles differ from Super Wing to Super Wing, ranging from Airport Chic to Victorian Steampunk Gothic to Mass Consumerism Mega Mall. The smell of tourist trap is strong.

Crew members tend to work 6 days on, 2 days off, or 3 weeks on, 1 week off. They have spartan (but roomy) quarters behind the passenger areas. The limit is always tonnage, not elbow room.

The available, unused space on the Super Wings has not been overlooked by visitors with a lot of money. Many Super Wings sport permanent residents, sometimes approaching 1000. The tail of the Super Wings (which looks much like the Chippewa's) consists of two vertical rudders the size of skyscrapers (100 meters tall, 50 meters long, 5 meters thick) joined by a horizontal elevator plane 125 meters wide (50 meters long and up to 5 meters thick) provide a lot of unused space. The trend has been to make the leading edges of the vertical stabilizer and elevator transparent, like the leading edge of the main wing, and install apartments and offices. The front third of the rudders and front 40% of the elevator are available for occupation, and the view is absolutely outstanding. "Real estate" prices are obscene. There is a culture of "Super Wing dwellers" who prefer never to touch ground if they can help it. Some are snobs, some are romantics, some are just weird.

There are various gondolas and wing-top observatories to thrill visitors and residents alike. These transparent structures allow the viewer to marvel at the vast expanse of the Super Wing and the ground below or sky above. Of course, anyone with a datajack can access public sensor systems for an incredible exterior view, and simlinks are available to enjoy the experience of BEING the Super Wing.

Many of the main and resident's promenade decks actually "float" separately of the hull of the Super Wing. The Super Wing does flex by some meters, and it would be unnerving for visitors to see people hundreds of meters down the promenade raised or dropped suddenly. Thus the promenades are broken up into sections and decks isolated from structural members.

The bridge is the last notable feature of the Super Wing. Some models just bury it in the interior and provide a "flying bridge" (pun intended) for landing and takeoff, while others install it as a 50-meter long transparent tear drop on the top of the Super Wing (see the XB-49 pictures, below).

The Super Wing's tiny predecessor:
That Chippewa I was babbling about:
A much slower, chunkier "Super Wing":
One of the ducted fans (well, not really - too small):

==Gaming on a Super Wing:==

Ideally (and to minimize GM headaches), the Super Wing is just treated as "scenery." Unless PCs try really, really hard (or the GM is too influenced by Hollywood plane physics), they cannot cause significant damage to the wing. No, stray bullets and grenades will not blow out the huge, leading edge windows. They'll put small holes in the windows if they get through at all. No, you cannot be sucked out through a bullet hole. A 12.7mm bullet hole will generate less than 3 pounds of "suck force." Holes in the hull will likewise not cause big blow outs; the hull is metal, not brittle glass. Millisecond response dry powder and halogen extinguishers stomp out fires quickly.

I'll leave it to any GMs who actually plan on using this setting to come up with stats if they think they need them. I have the BT stats on and (or e-mail me for the stats.)
Dr Vital
Very nice. Reminds me of the old "Azhanti High Lightening" from Traveller.

What if it went sub-orbital? You could have a Mana Warp that shifts over the course of the flight. A great source of business as people meet on the Super Wing to conduct "sensitive business" free of magical prying eyes.
Heh. You just need to make rules for planes with hull and bullwark ratings smile.gif
Talia Invierno
Beautiful smile.gif
QUOTE (Lilt @ Nov 26 2003, 12:06 AM)
Heh. You just need to make rules for planes with hull and bullwark ratings smile.gif

I thought about it, but I don't have an adequate grasp of Rigger 3 ship construction rules, while I can punch through aerodyne dropships pretty quickly on pen 'n paper, and in just minutes on HMAero.

QUOTE (Dr Vital)
What if it went sub-orbital? You could have a Mana Warp that shifts over the course of the flight. A great source of business as people meet on the Super Wing to conduct "sensitive business" free of magical prying eyes.

Suborbital flight, unfortunately, takes away an essential element of the super wings: long, slow aerial cruises. With suborbital flight, you can go half way around the world in under 80 minutes. There's little time to conduct sensitive business.

However, Target: Wastelands covers space stations in fair detail. You could stay up on stations for days or months, depending on the needs of the business meeting and run.
Dr Vital
I just like the idea of the manawarp fluctuating over the course of a few hours, but that's obviously not what you've got here, which is something very nice indeed.

So, when do we get to see the plans? nyahnyah.gif

I just have this vision of the climactic battle taking place on the upper surface of the wing... Knockdown rules are suddenly deadly as characters must take a complex action to stop sliding towards the edge.
QUOTE (Dr Vital)
I just have this vision of the climactic battle taking place on the upper surface of the  wing...  Knockdown rules are suddenly deadly as characters must take a complex action to stop sliding towards the edge.

OOh! Prettyyyy love.gif
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