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High Speed Falcons

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This is the Pereprine Falcon, one of nature's boldest predators. For thousands of years, humans have admired its powerful wings and fiery spirit. But quality above all sets this bird of prey apart: when it comes to raw speed, no creature on earth can match it. Commercial pilot Ken Franklin raises and studies falcons to see how they live, and how they move. What characterizes a Peregrine Falcon is its pure ability to hunt at high speed in an open air space. The more I was involved in flight with birds, and started seeing their speed, the more I wanted to... I really was driven just to be,  basically, on-wing with them. But experts can't agree on the Peregrine's top speed. To answer that question, Ken assembles a team of specialists, and a very special falcon named "Frightful". He'll test her speed with a lead-weighted lure that he'll release as he dives with her. A tiny computer like those used by skydivers is clipped onto feather shafts just under Frightful's tail coverts. Ken is counting on it won't affect her performance. The Cessna strains in the thin air at 15,000 feet. Although wild falcons may reach this altitude, this is the highest Frightful has ever been in her life. Frightful is released. At 12,000 feet she goes into her dive. After 10 seconds, she is going 120 mph [192 kilo]. Ken releases the lure. 21 seconds: Frightful shifts into hyperdrive. That's what Ken's been looking for. She shifts her shape to slip through the air's molecules. 43 seconds: She catches the lure, pulls out of her dive at 3,000 feet, and heads home. Moments later, Ken's chute, snaps open. It looks like a perfect flight. The verdict is in: Frightful has broken her own record. And Ken still doesn't know how much faster she can go. 183 mph [293 kilo]. Aerodynamically they are the incredible contortionists. This is like karate in the air. And what they do to hyper-streamline, and then when they achieve high speeds how they hold it... blew us away. One week later, Frightful was clocked at an astonishing 242 mph [387 kilo].

Video Details

Duration: 2 minutes and 59 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: National Geographic
Director: National Geographic
Views: 219
Posted by: greenbo on Apr 11, 2010

A Pet Falcon Sets a New Speed Record

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