9

When I was a child, we had a LP record with four Superman stories.

enter image description here

My favorite was "City Under Siege," about a group of terrorists who threaten Metropolis with a homemade nuclear weapon. (The was also released as a 45-rpm single, with an attached comic in the album, but we didn't have that.)

The story seemed rather sophisticated, at least compared to typical media for young children. It describes nuclear bomb sizes measured in "kilotons," talks about Superman's flight approaching the speed of light, and mentions radioactive tracers used in hospitals. (That was the first time I, as a child, had ever heard of radioactive tracers for medical imaging.)

However, there was one bit of terminology that confused me as a kid, and I still don't know what it means. Here's the panel from the comic version of the story.

Ransom Call

Lois Lane gets a call (staring at about 2:45 in the YouTube recording) from the leader of the terrorists, Trask, who tells her

We want ten billion... ten billion dollars in gold. It will be placed aboard a 747 jet airplane, fully fueled, in gander.

So what does "in gander" mean? As a child, I hypothesized that it might refer to some kind of aviation fuel, or to some location at the airport (presumably for easy takeoff). However, so far as I know, neither of these is correct. The meaning of "in gander" is still a mystery.

I have searched for an answer online several times, but I have never located anything satisfactory. However, I did just uncover a connection between the airport in Gander, Newfoundland and early experiments with in-flight refueling. This reference doesn't make any sense in the context of the Superman story, although it is at least related to the topic of aviation fuel. So the writer of that story may have misunderstood the meaning of "fueled in Gander" and inserted the phrase nonsensically into the story.

However, is there some other explanation of the "in gander" terminology that does make sense.

4
  • 7
    Gander, Newfoundland airport YQX probably. It's the eastern most airport on North America and is 'sometimes referred to as the "Crossroads of the World"'. There is no other aviation terminology, AFAIK, for "gander".
    – bishop
    Jun 22 at 2:37
  • 5
    Once you leave Gander, you are over water for all destinations north, east, and south of North America. That is tactically advantageous (pre 1960) for criminals fleeing to the Arctic or mid Atlantic regions.
    – bishop
    Jun 22 at 2:48
  • 4
    @bishop - You should repost that as the answer. It just means he wants the plane to be at Gander airport.
    – Valorum
    Jun 22 at 6:16
  • What’s good for the goose is good for these terrorist jabronis. Jun 22 at 8:15

1 Answer 1

14

Gander is, as mentioned in comments, a placeGander Airport, in Gander, Newfoundland, near Gander Bay.

Airliners used to be slower and have quite a bit less range, so long-distance flights would make one or more stops for refueling. Gander was one of those refueling stops — as one of the easternmost points in Canada, it's about as close to Europe as you can get and still be this side of the Atlantic. A fully-fueled jet on the runway in Gander, therefore, is "ready to go anywhere". And an airplane flying across the ocean is out of sight of ground-control radar (still largely true even today), so who knows where it's going to show up?

That said, the concept is a little behind the times for when it was written. The original-model 747 had an 8,500km range — enough to get basically anywhere in Europe from anywhere in the Eastern half of the US. The 747-200, in service by 1972, extended that to 12,000km (or even more if the plane was nearly empty, as Zeiss Ikon points out). The writer was probably used to older jets and hadn't really absorbed that fact.

2
  • 1
    Potentially worth noting that a 747-200 with maximum fuel and light load (as here) could potentially reach almost anywhere on Earth, nonstop via great circle routes from Gander (ignoring prohibitions of Soviet and Chinese airspace). The inaccessible region would be in the southwestern Pacific, southeast of Australia (probably including Tasmania and some of the continent).
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 22 at 15:44
  • You know, I had just assumed that the airliner was supposed to be provided at the Metropolis airport, but this actually makes a lot of sense!
    – Buzz
    Jun 23 at 0:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.