May 07, 2010
Pop Quiz: Which Has a Greater Power Output, A Boeing 747 or an Aircraft Carrier?
(This is a 'pop quiz' edition of Friday Factoids)
That's actually a trick question: both a Boeing 747 and a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier have peak power output of around 190 MW!
(That's the peak rating for an aircraft carrier, and a 747 has an average rating of 140 MW, both according to Wikipedia, so I'm assuming the 747's peak rating is about the same as the carrier).
The 'miracle' of human flight at near super-sonic speeds is certainly an energy-intensive endeavor.
Here's another perspective: a typical U.S. house uses about 1.3 KW of power on average. So a 747 jet flying with 140 MW of average power output (140,000 KW) is consuming as much power as over 100,000 U.S. homes!
Or put another way, a 747 flying five hours from San Francisco to Washington D.C. consumes 700,000 KWhs of energy, enough to fuel the electricity use of an average American home for more than 61 years!
This should actually come as no surprise when you consider that a jet can vault a couple hundred people through the air in a steel tube across an entire continent in five hours... But these figures are astonishing in some ways nonetheless.
(Almost as astonishing as the shear amount of energy and power involved in jet travel is it's relative affordability in the modern age...)