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Dan Johnson's
Light-Sport Aircraft

Date: February 17, 2016

Teaching a Beagle to Fly

by Ira McComic

Sometimes, and strictly as a public service of course, I offer advice. As an example, an employee of a contracting agency who works closely with the government sent me this note.

Dealing with the government is as frustrating as trying to teach a beagle to fly. What advice do you have?
- Beltway Bandit

Below is my reply to this desparate soul seeking my advice.

Dear Mr. Bandit

First, when attempting to teach a beagle to fly, it’s important that you don’t raise your expectations too high. Moreover, in endeavering to teach a beagle anything, it's imperative to appreciate the importance of motive on their part. Whereas many other breeds of dog enjoy no greater tail-wagging achievement than satisfying their owners’ wishes for them, beagles have such an abundant degree of self esteem that it gives them an exaggerated degree of independent nature, and as a result, beagles place little value in their caretaker’s overtures to have them do anything.

Another fundamental problem in motivating beagles for any kind of training, is that they generally lack any ambition at all to speak of. They’re generally content to simply scratch, sniff, and howl. Although I'm not opposed to these activities—and I actually endorse scratching, an activity I personally practice—these characteristics can be an impediment to proper training.

After considering motivation, you must also realize a practical problem on the part of this breed: beagles do not have the same aerodynamic shape conducive to flight as some other dogs do. For example, greyhounds are sleek animals with such aerodynamic streamlining that you have to be careful and anchor them down when wind gusts exceed 30 knots. In fact, just last spring, a wind storm rolled through here and picked up several unanchored greyhounds, whose owners were careless, and scattered them all over twelve counties—the greyhounds, that is, not the owners. And, just as an indication of the aerodynamic difference between greyhounds and beagles, during that same storm, there was not a single report of any beagle being displaced by wind.

Yet, I don't want to appear totally pessimistic about the prospects of such a project. Although it’s true that beagles may not have the aerodynamic framework of other breeds, I think you do have one thing working in your favor that offers some promise: a beagle's ears. Nature has provided beagles with such large ears that it suggests to me they may have enough surface area to produce an aerodynamic lifting capacity sufficient to get the whole beagle off the ground—if you could somehow extend those floppy lobes and shape them into wings. Perhaps you could use sticks and duct tape to fashion the ears into a suitable wing-like shape.

Now, supposing you’re successful in converting the ears into wings, you’re still confronted with the problem of getting enough air moving over those ears to create aerodynamic lift. In aeronautical engineering terms, getting enough air over the ears is a matter of generating enough thrust on the part of the object you’re attempting to get airborne, and to generate sufficient thrust on the part of a beagle, you might try loosing a jack rabbit under its nose, thereby causing the object of this experiment to chase the rabbit and perhaps run fast enough to produce a sufficient flow of air over the ears for the beagle to become airborne—at least momentarily. I confess, though, I don’t know how a beagle would sustain self-propelled thrust after its feet left the ground.

Good luck, Mr. Bandit. I’m happy to provide you with this advice and hope it is helpful in your attempt to train a beagle to fly.

Ira McComic

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