Departures

I’m gonna have to postpone my examination of the TSM piece mentioned below, having unexpectedly run across another one at WRSA that led me to…well, first, we have this obit and remembrance for a legendary Naval aviator:

We wake to the sad news that Snort (Capt Dale Snodgrass, USN-RET, callsign “Snort”—M) died in a crash yesterday. I was honored to interview him in 2000, but it wasn’t our first encounter.

In 1985, I was there in the crowd as a teenager when he awed us all in the Tomcat at the Pratt & Whitney airshow in East Hartford. I have chills this morning thinking of the chills I had then, watching the Tomcat in formation with the other Grumman cats, and I do believe it was a missing man formation.

RIP, Snort. Thank you for taking the phone call from a young writer with no credentials, but who was thrilled beyond words to interview the legend.

I imagine so. Follows, a repost of his 2010 interview with CAPT Snodgrass, which runs below one of the most famed photos of Tomcat derring-do ever captured, which I cannot possibly resist running here.

You can practically hear those jet-jock sized Big Brass Ones all a-clank just looking at that pic. On to the interview.

If you’ve researched information on the F-14, it is pretty likely that the name Dale Snodgrass has appeared somewhere in what you’ve read. “Snort” is virtual legend in the Tomcat community, and with more than 4,800 hours in the F-14, he is the most experienced Tomcat pilot in the world. Over a 26-year career in Naval Aviation, he had moved from being the first student pilot to trap an F-14 on a carrier to commanding the US Navy’s entire fleet of Tomcats as the Commander of Fighter Wing Atlantic. Now retired, Snort is on the airshow circuit, flying a wide range of aircraft, from the F4U and P-51 to the F-86, MiG-15, and MiG-17.

The accolades for Snort’s flying are long and distinguished…twelve operational Fighter Squadron/Wing tours, including command of Fighter Squadron 33 during Desert Storm, the Navy’s “Fighter Pilot of the Year” in 1985, Grumman Aerospace’s “Topcat of the Year” for 1986, a US Navy Tomcat Flight Demonstration Pilot from 1985-1997, and numerous decorations for combat and peacetime flight.

This is all good stuff, well worth reading in full if you’re any kind of military-aviation guy at all. But then we get to the part that stopped me COLD and made my eyes bug out comically.

What was your most tense moment in the 26 years?

From a combat perspective, it was when I had a flameout over Iraq while executing a last ditch surface-to-air missile defense. I was leading a night Fighter Sweep in support of an A-6 strike on a power plant on the north side of Baghdad.

As I said, the story of Snodgrass’ close encounter with an Iraqi SAM, which caused a flameout that in turn brought on a 15k-foot altitude drop, leading to an attempted air-start of the dead engine whilst flying through the middle of a thick triple-A barrage, is all good, gripping stuff for sure. But what slammed me betwixt the orbs was the part I bolded in the last line. Because see, I happen to know a little something myself about that A-6 strike he mentioned. In order to explain it, though, we’re going to need to make a little side-trip here, to another obit from 2015.

Reggie Parks Carpenter, 51, Captain, United States Navy, died from sudden cardiac arrest in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on February 3, 2015. Captain Carpenter, from Cherryville, North Carolina, graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications. He was commissioned an officer in the Navy via the Aviation Officer Candidate School, and received his aviator “Wings of Gold” in 1987. Captain Carpenter, also known as “Regbo” to fellow aviators, bravely served in the defense of the United States for 29 years.

He flew tactical missions in three jet aircraft, in four operational squadrons, and over six aircraft carrier-based deployments, including one as an exchange pilot with the French Navy.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval War College with a Masters in National Security and Strategic Studies, the personal highlight of Captain Carpenter’s career was his tour as commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHTY THREE (VFA-83), an F/A-18C Hornet squadron at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA. His final tours of duty, which he also enjoyed immensely, were in military diplomacy. He served as Naval Attaché to France, from 2007 to 2011, and to Argentina, from 2012 to 2015.

Captain Carpenter was a highly decorated naval aviator who earned many awards and medals during his career, including the Distinguished Flying Cross. A devoted, loving husband and father, he was also a kind, passionate man with quick wit and boundless zest for life. Captain Carpenter is survived by his wife, Suzanne, and daughters, Avery and Caroline; mother, Barbara Cannon; sister, Kelly Stewart; brother-in-law, Bob Stewart; and many loving friends and colleagues from all over the world.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, 2015, at Vienna Presbyterian Church, 124 Park St. NE, Vienna, VA. Interment with full military honors will take place at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 24, 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery.

You CF Lifers might begin to see where all this is going, I bet. For the shavetails, nuggets, and noobs, this oughta help clear things up.

The CF community suffered a serious loss yesterday, although most of you might not know about it. My “cousin”, Captain Reggie Carpenter, USN, died suddenly in Buenos Aires, where he was serving as naval attache, capping off a distinguished three-decade career as a naval aviator and diplomat.

He wasn’t really my cousin; he was actually my first cousin’s cousin, but his family and mine had been tightly intertwined for our whole lives; our fathers, uncles, and other kinfolk were all close friends from childhood, and the subsequent generations have all retained a sort of extended-family relationship ever since.

Those of you who have been around these parts a good while may remember him as “Regbo,” his flyboy call sign, or simply as “Cuz.” He did a fair bit of writing for the site back in its early years under those handles; he preferred the anonymity of them, for obvious reasons.

Y’all also might remember a post I did years ago from NAS Oceana, where the band had gone to play Reggie’s change of command party at the O-club there. He was taking over Rampager squadron, VFA 83, after having served as XO of the Sunliners. We didn’t get paid for the gig, or at least not in money; we got paid with twenty minutes apiece in the F/A-18 simulators instead. Which just made it one of the most richly remunerative shows I ever did. Hell, just hanging out at the O-club, meeting and hearing the sea stories of these “casual American heroes” as Reg called them, was payment aplenty.

He was a damned fine pilot, flying the A6 Intruder in the first sorties of the first Gulf War, then F14s, then Super Etendards off the Foch for a year as part of the officer-exchange program with the French. He graduated to the Hornet after that, and stayed in ’em for the remainder of his career. He was invited to join the Blue Angels and even toured with them awhile while he considered the offer; he eventually decided against it, and went to the War College instead. Back in his college days he got one of the highest scores ever on the Navy’s Pilot Aptitude test, and just moved on ever upwards from there.

Reg had a heart attack either on his way to or shortly after arriving at work yesterday morning in Buenos Aires (the family is still waiting for details on that); he’d just returned from an African safari with his beloved family. He was due to retire next spring; in fact, the last conversation I had with him was shortly before he left for the Africa trip. He asked if I wanted to attend his retirement party, and I assured him I did. We were talking about maybe having the band play for the festivities, in fact, and I was looking forward to seeing him again. He was 52, which is way too damned young to lose a guy like him. Hard to believe he’s gone so quick. He’ll be missed by all who knew him.

Rest easy, Reg, until we meet on the other side to pick some guitar and talk fighters and politics again. Your whole family was extremely proud of you, as well they might be, and your friends were glad and grateful to know you. Much love to you and your family, brother.

That, of course, is part of the obit I wrote for Reg right here at CF, which includes a photo of him leaning nonchalantly against his own personal F/A-18 that I took at NAS-JAX during a post-gig visit we paid him there once.

So here’s the payoff: that aforementioned A-6 strike over Baghdad on opening night of Desert Storm? Well, guess who else was out there along with Snort Snodgrass? Yep, you got it: none other than one Reggie “Regbo” Carpenter, that’s who.

Reg later sent a somewhat illicit cockpit video home to his (also my) Uncle Gene from that eventful night, along with a letter detailing a harrowing misadventure when his Intruder was struck by lightning (!!!) on the way back to the carrier, knocking out every electronic gee-gaw and instrument save for the gyrocompass. After being asked by the Midway’s comm shack if he wanted to attempt a trap on the carrier deck—sans all instruments and lights, at night, in a storm, no less—Reg opted for what’s known as “the better part of valor” and diverted to the airbase at Riyadh instead, where he landed his damaged aircraft without further trouble.

And that concludes tonight’s amazing tale of serendipitous coinkydink. You really just never know what you’re going to run across out there on the Innarnuts, do ya?

Men like Reg and Snodgrass are a breed apart for sure—capable men, courageous men, dauntless men, men without an ounce of give-up in ’em. Men whose vocabulary assuredly does NOT include discouraging words like “can’t” or “impossible.” As I so often say around here, we need all of such men we can get, and will never have enough of them. RIP, CAPT Snodgrass, and farewell. You too, Reggie.

3

Fly Fall from the friendly skies!

Man, I sure am getting a lot of mileage lately from that old ad slogan, ain’t I?

It seems like a really bad idea, yet it’s one United Airlines reportedly just bought into – probably for many millions of dollars (the actual sum hasn’t been disclosed). It will “invest” in the development – italics to emphasize the nonexistence at present – of the ES-19, an electric aircraft that exists on the drawing board only. This hypothetical aircraft is being developed by a Swedish company with the cloying name, Heart Aerospace – which summons images of kumba-ya’ing around the campfire in a collective hug.

But will it fly? 

Not with me in it, it won’t. Not ever, not one single time.

It is claimed that the ES-19 will have a range of about 250 miles – which is just barely enough to make the short hop from DC Dulles to a regional airport such as Roanoke, in SW Virginia. With very little margin to spare. What happens if the plane needs to circle, as because of traffic or weather?

Maybe it would be a good idea to equip this one with parachutes rather than flotation devices.

People who know airplanes raise other pertinent questions, such as the drain on the electric airplane’s batteries during taxiing from the terminal to the runway, which as anyone who flies commercially knows sometimes takes half an hour or more. All the while, the heat or AC must be running, in addition to the lights and all the plane’s electrical systems. Does the advertised 250 mile range factor these considerations in?

The FAA nominally requires redundancies and margins-of-error for commercial aircraft especially. It is why, for instance, commercial aircraft that fly over the ocean must be able to remain in the air if one or more engines cut out.

What if the batteries cut out? 

Which – it bears repeating – it is more likely to because an electric airplane will necessarily be heavier than a jet-powered airplane because of the massive weight of the batteries that will be necessary to drive electric props sufficiently powerful to get it in the air. But the weight of all those batteries will necessarily reduce the amount of time it can remain in the air. 

If it smells of unicorn farts, your nose is working.

Astute commenter Baxter raises a glaringly obvious potential-failure-point issue that leaves one totally mystified as to what the everlasting fuck the Supergenii™ skull-sweating over this fever-dream could possibly be thinking—besides MUH GAIA!!!, that is.

Other things to think about: Batteries suck when it gets cold. Forget an electric car in the winter when it’s 20 degrees F. Planes need to fly high where there is less air friction. Think about a plane (summer or winter, doesn’t matter) at 35,000 feet where it’s 65 degrees below zero F. Plane batteries will obviously need to be heated. Where does that heat come from? The batteries, limiting range even more so.

Obviously, as with the Goobermint-decreed transition from ICE cars to useless, unreliable, and unsafe coal-powered ones, the hidden agenda here is to eventually eliminate flying altogether. Except for the Kommissars, natch. They’ll still carry on as before, just without having to sully themselves with any unpleasant physical proximity to us beastly, smelly serfs in the airport cocktail lounge anymore. The vlasti won’t be replacing their in-flight steak or burger with the new bug-beef they’re foisting off on us proles either, you betcher.

1

Dawn of the Jet Age

Col Bunny gives us a steer to something truly great, for anybody who is as fervent a pursuit/fighter/intercepter aircraft junkie as I am.

A Fighter Pilot’s Airplane

Ooooh, I like where this is going.

On December 18, 1950, an F-86 Sabrejet in its first combat over Korea shot clown a Russian-built MiG-15. The North American jet which, at the time, held the official world speed record of 670.951 miles an hour, was the best air-superiority fighter possessed by the free world during that period.

We can certainly be thankful that we had this machine in our inventory, for we would have fared rather badly trying to fight MiG-15s with F-51s, F-80s, and F-84s.

However, by way of contrast, today’s F-104 Starfighter (this piece is from 1960; more on the Starfighter anon—M) is the only airplane in history that has simultaneously held all three official world’s records—speed, altitude, and rate of climb. We have, in other words, come some distance since the day of the Sabre. I will here attempt to analyze the aircraft concerned from a fighter pilot’s viewpoint.

Much has been written and said in comparing the performance capabilities of the F-86 and the MiG-15. Certainly most fighter pilots felt that the MiG was a higher-performance airplane above 30,000 feet. Only in the latter stages of the Korean War, when we received the F-86F, could we raise this altitude factor to 35,000 feet.

However, this increase in ceiling was offset by the fact that when we did receive the F model, most of our initial contacts with the MiG were above 40,000 feet. To say the least, it was both highly impressive and yet extremely depressing to see a MiG pilot loop his aircraft at 51,000 when we could barely stay in the air at that altitude. I am certainly not trying to downgrade the fighting qualities of the F-86; it had many advantages over the MiG—in fire control, range, diving ability, and ruggedness—all of them vitally important in the business of shooting down airplanes.

It must have; by the admittedly disputed numbers, Saber pilots shot down 200 of them, possibly quite a lot more.

The Sabre was certainly a credit to its designers and manufacturers, but the fact remains, the MiG could outperform the F-86 at any altitude, except in a dive, and was a better fighting machine at the higher altitudes. The answer, of course, to our huge success over the MiG lay in the aggressiveness, discipline, training, and leadership of the USAF fighter pilot. We’ve all heard the phrase “guts will take the place of skill” in fighter combat. This is true. Nevertheless, superior aircraft performance can take the place of both. If you can fly higher and faster than your opponent and want to get the job done badly enough, then you’re going to win.

The original fire-control system of the F-86 was one of our greatest deficiencies. We had a World War II gunsight and World War II guns. Hitting a MiG at angles off of more than fifteen degrees and range of 1,300 feet was nearly impossible with the short firing time available in high-speed jet combat. Our primary advantage was the high rate of fire of the .50-caliber gun, even though the destructive power of our ammunition could not compare, projectile for projectile, with the 37-mm and 23-mm cannon shell of the enemy.

The later acquisition of the radar gunsight in the F-86 was probably the greatest single improvement of the airplane during the Korean War. Expert gunners such as Lt. Col. Vermont Garrison and Maj. Manuel J. Fernandez could hit a MiG at 3,000 feet and high angles off with the radar gunsight, and the shooting problem was also considerably lessened for the more inexperienced pilot.

If I remember correctly, and I may not, the F86-D variant was the first with the big, honking radome in the nose that said gunsight worked in concert with. More on that anon, too.

As in the ease of Spitfires during the Battle of Britain, F86s were fighting against heavy odds in Korea. Approximately 800 MiGs were based in Manchuria and China. The Soviet Union had supplied China with more sweptwing fighters than the United States had even produced. It was common to encounter 150 or more MiG-15s twice a day against no more than thirty-two Sabres. The 4th Fighter Wing, with a World War II record of 1,016½ enemy aircraft destroyed, had fought steadily rising odds, eventually reaching as high as ten to one. When the 51st Fighter Wing converted to the F-86, these odds dropped to seven to one.

I’ve always considered the Saber to be one of the most gorgeous fighters ever made…right up to the D variant, which was butt-ugly because of that radome. No surprise, since both were designed and built by the same company responsible for my eternal favorite, the P51 Mustang: North American. And since this is where the purty pitchers come in and I don’t want to drag down page-load times for those of you who, incomprehensibly and inexcusably, have no interest in these matters, I’ll do y’all the courtesy of tucking the rest below the fold.

Continue reading “Dawn of the Jet Age”

1

It’s a mad, mad, mad, MAD world

Inmates, running the asylum.

We used to have mental hospitals, sanitariums, asylums, for the seriously, and long-term, mentally ill. We locked dangerous people away. But too damned many of those facilities were terrible. Outright abuse of patients, well-intended treatments that were abusive, neglect… you name it, they did it. There was a backlash against them. We still have some comparatively small, specialized in-patient treatment centers, but for the most part, we started “mainstreaming” the mentally ill, the out-right crazed. Give enough drugs to keep them from completely flipping out, and hope they’ll keep filling the prescription and taking the meds.

We didn’t just mainstream crazy people, society mainstreamed insanity. A generation grew up watching crazy people acting out around them without knowing they were crazy. It became acceptable to act that way. And as more people picked it up, it set the example for even more.

That’s why we have people like “crewcut lady” who think sharing their psychotic breaks in videos to the world is a good idea. If they left it at that, fine. But they didn’t.

Our new batch of lunatics applied their crazy and illogic to everything in life. That’s how idjits like David Hogglet can demand that oh-so-mature sixteen year-olds be able to vote on life or death issues, but eighteen year-olds are to immature to be trusted with a firearm.

Not entirely sure whether that’s crazy per se, or just fucking stupid. No matter, I suppose; we all wind up in the same place either way.

That’s how we got Alexandria Occasionally-firing-Cortex’ grand plan to save the planet by strip mining it, and filling the holes with the toxic waste left over from manufacturing all those wind gennies and solar panels. Or her plan to simply print monopoly money to pay for it all, then tax every bit of it back to “prevent inflation.” (Hint: Paying for something, then taking the money back without returning the thing is theft. Paying people to work, then stealing the pay back though taxes is slavery.)

Contra my above statement, I am one hundred percent certain that Toothy McBigTits, however out-of-her-mind she may seem to sensible people, is really just plain old-fashioned stupid. That enough New Yorkers voted for her dumb ass to send her to Congress instead of keeping her in her titty-bar habitat humping the pole, as God intended? THAT’S what’s crazy.

That’s how we got a generation of socialist-indoctrinated schoolkids, who see so much crazy on the street that the crazy in classroom doesn’t faze them a bit.

So yeah; when I wrote about how everyone got too dumbed down to keep up the infrastructure? Remember that they are just dumb, they’re crazy. Enjoy operating appliances — “water-saving” clothes washer and dishwashers that take hours to not clean and use more energy, “water-saving” toilets that require multiple flushes to actually flush — designed by the criminally insane.

Bad enough, sure, but there’s worse.

United Airlines plans to hire and train 5,000 pilots, including some with no flying experience

It appears that the skies are about to get a lot less friendly, to repurpose United’s old ad tagline for use against them.

United Airlines says it will train 5,000 pilots this decade, including taking on applicants with no flying experience, and plans for half of them to be women or people of color.

United will borrow an approach used elsewhere, notably at Germany’s Lufthansa, by taking people at the beginning of their flying careers and training them at its own academy, which it bought last year. United will continue to draw pilots from traditional sources such as the military, however.

Airline officials began accepting applicants for United’s flight academy Tuesday.

The subject of a pilot shortage — it is not universally accepted that one exists — was hotly discussed in the airline industry before the coronavirus pandemic hit, and then receded as airlines around the world grounded planes and reduced their pilot ranks in response to the plunge in air travel.

Now travel is rebounding, although it hasn’t returned to 2019 levels.

Much as I’ve always loved to fly, I can guar-on-TEE I won’t be getting on any commercial flights now that I know that they no longer consider being, y’know, a fully-trained, capable pilot a more essential requirement for strapping on an airliner and calling him, zxher, or itself a bona fide, pro-fessional Bus Driver In The Sky than gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, Wokeness, or any of the myriad other irrelevancies to which our society now grants primacy of place over such oppressive and hateful inequities as aptitude and ability. In the unlikely event I’m forced to fly someplace, it damned sure won’t be on United, their having officially declared a newfound disinterest in recruiting the best, most qualified people for left-seater employment, preferring instead to bump Diversity and PC Feelgoodz right on up to Item One on the job application.

Nice of them to be upfront about their total abandonment of all standards of safety, rationality, and corporate responsibility, I suppose. But after a bonehead move like this, I’d rather crawl on hands and knees over a mile of alcohol-drenched broken glass than Fly United™. Henceforth, if I want to fly my brother and I will drive to one of several local civil-aviation facilities, rent ourselves a 172, Seminole, or something along those lines (or a King Air—YES!!!), and just DIY it, thenksveddymuch. We’ve actually done quite a good bit of that very thing over the years, whether for strictly Point A-to-Point B purposes or just an afternoon’s amusement. If you’ve never traveled on a small private aircraft, you can take my word for it when I say that it’s one heck of a lot more fun than flying commercial anyhoo.

Yes, renting a small plane ain’t exactly cheap, especially the fuel cost. But these days, the airlines ain’t exactly cheap either. Throw in a plethora of indignities and/or abuse at the halfwit whim of handsy, thuggish TSA mouthbreathers; interminable delays, endless lines, long walks, surly counter personnel, layovers, and scheduling cockups; and too much other terminal and concourse unpleasantness to list, before you even board. All of that, to then put your very life—quite literally—in the hands of some diversity-hire horrorshow who can’t even run the preflight checklist without more-competent supervision? Someone hired not because thorough vetting confirmed them as the best person for the job, but because there’s a box on the gooberment’s Mandatory Diversity Form that the airline needed to put an X in?

Yeah, no. Spendy or not, the fly-it-yourself option begins to look like a real bargain in comparison, don’t it?

Update! Diversity is NEVER a strength, in any business or industrial context. But in certain fields where the hazard to life and limb is both real and significant, diversity goes from being merely an expensive but more or less bearable nuisance to a serious threat.

After a hard year of reduced travel from the coronavirus, United Airlines decided it was time to announce a new initiative: “Our flight deck should reflect the diverse group of people on board our planes every day. That’s why we plan for 50% of the 5,000 pilots we train in the next decade to be women or people of color.” This type of corporate mantra is so common these days as to be unremarkable. But this announcement led to a lot of critical comments on social media—the dreaded ratio—about how this initiative has nothing to do with making flying safer.

United’s policies, however, are a rather typical expression of the ideology of diversity, a successor to the earlier, more limited concept of affirmative action.

By the 1990s, diversity itself became an entire industry. There were diversity consultants and chief diversity officers. Everyone in the public and private sector now mouths platitudes in support of diversity. An important factor missing from all the diversity talk was data. One reason, of course, is that certain questions are simply too dangerous to explore. The wrong conclusion can lead to pariah status, as The Bell Curve authors learned.

This is why diversity is especially prominent in soft fields with vague metrics of productivity: higher education, government, journalism, nonprofit management, marketing, and human resources. These fields have diffuse responsibility and limited accountability. Bad work by a mediocre employee cannot easily be measured or found out.

In a sense, diversity is a luxury good. Profitable enterprises can absorb people who are not the best of the best, particularly for jobs where being the best is not an important requirement; other talented and hard-working people can cover the slack. In large organizations, there are also jobs where less skilled people can do relatively little harm, like “community liaison.”

For more tangible fields, like firefighting or police work, the costs of lowering standards are more tangible—sometimes directly causing real headaches—but there is little courage inside or outside organizations to speak frankly about the costs of diversity.

This brings us back to United Airlines. There are certain jobs—heart surgeon, pilot, oil tanker captain—where there is almost no room for error. There is a linear relationship of talent and skill, and those on the customer side, as well as the general public, insist on excellence. Mistakes are immediate and costly.

In response to customer criticism, United insisted there would be no degradation in standards or quality. This seems unlikely. In every other field where diversity becomes the watchword, excellence becomes a secondary priority. After all, excellence is rare. Whatever criteria were used to pick the best people before could simply be applied to all comers, the results listed first to last. Everyone knows this would undermine diverse outcomes. 

Another important reality undermines diversity propaganda. Hiring and promotion are zero-sum games; to advance one group, one must artificially hold back another. For example, United has said it will definitely not hire more than 2,500 white men to be pilots no matter how skilled. These messages have an impact. Even so, we are told “diversity benefits everyone,” and it is “our” strength. 

Surveying the country, it’s hard not to see a more general reduction in quality across the board…not in strength, but fragility. Consider the recent COVID episode. Does this look like a society with a lot of resilience, or one with highly skilled elites and decision-makers? 

One would think the airline business is fundamentally simple: get people from point A to point B quickly, cheaply, comfortably, and, most important of all, safely. Presumably airplanes not falling out of the sky is just as important as who wins the Super Bowl.

But for United, safety has to fly coach. 

Unfortunately for United, there are other options out there. After this self-inflicted debacle, UA can expect those alternatives to be carefully weighed, by a large number of prospective passengers—planeloads of ’em, one might say.

SCIENCE!!!

COME ON, MAN.

Biden Claims Commercial Planes May Soon Go 21,000 MPH — Meaning a New York to LA Trip Would Take 7 Minutes

Uhhhh HUH. God, but I love this soooo much, I really do. Rave on, Gramps.

President Joe Biden claimed Wednesday that commercial aircraft would soon be able to travel at speeds of up to 21,000 miles per hour.

“I tell the kids, the young people that work for me — I told my kids, when I go on college campuses, they’re going to see more change in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the last 50 years,” Biden said during an address about his proposed infrastructure legislation. “We’re going to talk about commercial aircraft flying at subsonic speeds, supersonic speeds, be able to figuratively, if you may, if we decide to do it, be able to traverse the world in an hour, travel at 21,000 miles an hour.”

Which, in case you didn’t know, is actually quite a bit faster than the ISS, which plods along at a bit under 18,000 mph or thereabouts. Never you mind, Gramps, you go ‘head on.

It was not clear what Biden meant by “figuratively.” The speed he suggested is roughly equivalent to Mach 28, which would make airlines capable of traversing the 2,400 miles between New York and Los Angeles in roughly seven minutes. The fastest commercial airliners presently travel at speeds of about 600 miles per hour, a little less than Mach 1.

Several companies do have plans in the works to increase top speeds to nearly 4,000 miles per hour, or Mach 5. Boeing announced plans to that effect in 2018. Florida-based Aerion announced similar plans last month for a Mach 4+ commercial airliner, which it said would be ready “before the end of the decade.”

Shyeeeaaah, like that’s ever gonna happen. I mean, I’m sure they can build ’em, but everyone who thinks the Safety Nazis will permit any such super-speedster aircraft to fly here without protest please raise your hand. Not to even mention that the sleek, beautiful, now sadly-defunct Concorde, a real pokealong at just over Mach 2, got itself banned from overland flight in the US and several other countries due to complaints about the noise from sonic booms.

It’s a beautiful, beautiful dream you have there, Gropey, it truly is. But if it ever comes true the FUSA won’t have had any part in it, it won’t be because of anything you did, and you won’t deserve an ounce of credit for it.

Not that any of that will stop him from trying to glom it for himself anyway, natch.

Preview of coming attractions

Oh goody, the Chair Force has itself a new platform to use in hunting down MAGA types.

The U.S. Air Force has taken delivery of its first Beechcraft AT-6E Wolverine single-engine turboprop light attack aircraft. The service has said in the past that it could acquire up to three of these aircraft to support a program called the Airborne Extensible Relay Over-Horizon Network, or AEROnet, focused on developing a low-cost communications and data-sharing architecture to help allies and partners work together better during coalition operations.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, announced the arrival of the AT-6E on Feb. 17, 2021. The AT-6E is a variant of the T-6 Texan II trainer from Beechcraft, a division of Textron, configured for light attack and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The Air Force, as well as the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army, already operate unarmed versions of the Texan II.

The most immediately visible difference between the AT-6E, which Beechcraft has marketed in the past as the AT-6B, AT-6C, or simply the AT-6, and standard Texan II trainers are its six underwing pylons. These can accommodate various precision-guided bombs and missiles, as well as rocket and gun pods, among other stores.

It’s actually a good-looking aircraft. I started to embed one of the pics, but there’s no pressing need for that, really. Contra the USAF’s blushful demurral about “help(ing) allies and partners work together better during coalition operations,” it’s a fair bet that at least some Real Americans will be enjoying a close-in view of the new birds soon enough.

Okay, “enjoying” might not be exactly the mot juste here.

(Via Insty)

Blackbird buzz

A great story from start to finish, but do stick with it. As with so many other things in life, the best parts come in at the end.




Quoth WeirdDave: “If you’re going to buzz the tower, why not do it in a Blackbird, that’s what I say.” I couldn’t agree more.

Coooool

For the first time ever, I kinda wish I could be in Mordor on the Potomac.

WASHINGTON – Bad weather has postponed the flyover of dozens of vintage planes over the skies of the D.C. area Friday to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The flyover has been rescheduled for Saturday. More details are expected.

The flyover will incorporate and estimated 60 American, British, and Allied jets in honor of veterans, and to inspire young people.

Some of the historic aircraft expected to participate include the P-40 Warhawk, P-39 Airacobra, P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt, F4U Corsair, B-25 Mitchell, B-17 Flying Fortress, B-29 Superfortress, and others.

Leftist “protesters” are also expected to gather on the Mall for a mass die-in, along with some light burning and looting, in protest of the murderous warmongering Amerikkkan fascist colonialist imperialism symbolized by the racist flyover.

Dear Santa

SO then, what it would take to put you in this…uhhh, this…that is…hm.

History: The F4F  Grumman Wildcat began life on Grumman’s drawing boards as a biplane, but nevertheless became the Navy’s first monoplane fighter aircraft.

The Wildcat has no hydraulic system and a very simple electrical system. The landing gear is cranked up and down (28 cranks), and the flaps are vacuum powered.

Despite its simplicity, the Wildcat was a great technological advance over its biplane predecessors when it entered service in the late 1930’s.

Heavy, awkward, slow, and ungainly as it was, it was also a worthy ancestor to its faster, slightly sleeker, just all-around nastier little sister, the F6F Hellcat:

grumman_f6f_hellcat_3.jpg


Those rows of kill flags tell the Hellcat story all by themselves, but here’s a bit more.

The Hellcat was developed as an improvement upon a previous Grumman plane, the F4F Wildcat. The Wildcat was seeing heavy use in the Pacific theatre of the war, where US Navy pilots flew it from both land bases and aircraft carriers. In the constant escalation of weapons technology, a central feature of this massive industrialized war, the Americans were keen to improve upon the design and find something more effective.

The Hellcat was designed and produced at an accelerated pace. The first flight by a prototype took place on the 26th of June 1942, and by August 1943 is was being deployed in the Pacific.

The power beneath the hood of a Hellcat came from a Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine. This was an 18-cylinder, two-row, air-cooled radial piston engine with 2,000 horsepower.

This engine gave the Hellcat a maximum speed of 386mph.

From the moment it entered service, the Hellcat swung battles in the Americans’ favor. The first large air battle fought by Hellcats took place on the 4th of December 1943, in the Kwajalein area. 91 Hellcats fought 50 Mitsubishi A6M Zeros, one of Japan’s most successful fighters of the war. The Hellcats shot down 28 of the enemy planes and only lost two of their own.

Able to fight effectively day and night, the Hellcat became a constant presence in the skies during the Pacific war. For the Japanese, this was a source of fear and tension. For the Americans, it was a source of comfort. They referred to this constant Hellcat cover as the “Big Blue Blanket”.

When the ground-pounders start bestowing affectionate nicknames on your aircraft due to its effectiveness, that’s endorsement enough for anybody. Plenty more fun Hellcat facts rat cheer.

Getting back to the Wildcat, I realize I may have sounded a mite disparaging of the F4F’s looks above. But believe me, I did NOT mean to imply that the Wildcat was any kind of ugly. She wasn’t.

GummanWildcat.jpg


Pretty enough, beaucoup tough, and a damned good fighter for its era.

The Wildcat held the line in every U.S. carrier action in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor through the Guadalcanal Campaign in the face of the superior performing Zero.

The Wildcat’s legendary ruggedness, combined with the superior tactics of its pilots negated the performance advantages of the light weight, unarmored Japanese Zero. It continued in Service with the Navy and Marine Corps through 1945, even after higher performance fighters replaced them on the fleet aircraft carriers.

Despite its limitations Marine and Naval Aviators flying the Grumman Wildcat earned 8 Congressional Medal of Honor medals, more than any other single-engined fighter flown by US pilots in World War II.

A proud and noble record for sure. But let’s get right down to the nut-cuttin’, which is contained in the piece’s headline:

Yours for Just $1.3 Million 1944 Grumman Wildcat

A bargain at any price. Makes me wish I’d listened to my mama and been a lawyer instead of…well, whatever the hell I am.

Shredded!

Hol-eee CRAP.

Mechanic ‘Accidentally’ Fires Vulcan Cannon & Obliterates F-16 Sitting on the Runway
The F-16, hit by the cannon fire, caught fire and exploded having recently been refuelled and made ready for a training sortie due to take place later that day. Another aircraft received minor damage.

If anyone ever needed a reminder of the lethal dangers of working with live munitions, then a recent incident at Florennes Air Base in Belgium is the ultimate wake-up call.

It is thought a maintenance worker accidentally activated the six-barrel 20mm Vulcan M61A-1 cannon hitting another plane parked on the runway.

“You can’t help thinking of what a disaster this could have been,” he said. The area was secured and checked to ensure there was no further discharge of toxic substances.

They have pics of the smoking ruins, and they’re…gruesome. Naturally, the BAF brass SPRANG into action right away:

The Belgian Air Force was reluctant to discuss the cause of the incident until the full investigation had been completed but were quick to condemn Belgian newspaper De Standaard for an article for unfairly lampooning the Air Force for destroying one of its own aircraft.

“Unfairly”? A little history, which is always of interest to a geek like moi.

Two fighter squadrons, 1 Squadron, formed in 1917, and 350 Squadron formed in 1942 in Britain during World War Two, are based at Florennes.

The base was used by the German Luftwaffe during WWII up until its capture by the Allies in September 1944. Ju88, Bf110 night-fighters and Focke-Wulf Fw190 day-fighters were based at the airfield.

Following capture the Allies based the USAAF 430th Fighter Squadron here flying ground attack missions with P38 Lockheed Lightnings. At night the Americans flew Northrop P-61 Black Widows with the 422nd Night Fighter Squadron.

My fellow military-aviation buffs will be quite familiar with the hallowed P38, whose proud escutcheon is currently being disgraced by the F35 Lightning II. Amusingly, the less well-known Black Widow looks quite similar:

p61_large.jpg

Back to the F16, which still gets my vote as one of the prettiest fighters ever built.

The F-16, Fighting Falcon was developed by General Dynamics for the US Air Force as a superiority day-fighter and proved to be a versatile all-weather aircraft.

It’s also proved to be capable of kicking the crap out of the F35 in a dogfight—a bit of an unfair comparison, maybe, since avoiding a dogfight altogether is kinda the whole point behind the F35’s overall design.

Via MisHum, who quips: “We’ve all had bad days at work, amirite? I don’t think your day was ever quite this bad.” God, I should hope not.

There walked a man

As big a fan as I’ve always been of the great Jimmy Stewart, there’s still a lot about him I didn’t know.

20 February 1966: Brigadier General James M. Stewart, United States Air Force Reserve, flew the last combat mission of his military career, a 12 hour, 50 minute “Arc Light” bombing mission over Vietnam, aboard Boeing B-52 Stratofortress of the 736th Bombardment Squadron, 454th Bombardment Wing. His bomber was a B-52F-65-BW, serial number 57-149, call sign GREEN TWO. It was the number two aircraft in a 30-airplane bomber stream.

Plenty more to the Stewart story, of which you should definitely read the all. I’ll just toss some more in for the heck of it.

Concerned that his celebrity status would keep him in “safe” assignments, Jimmy Stewart had repeatedly requested a combat assignment. His request was finally approved and he was assigned as operations officer of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, 445th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit soon to be sent to the war in Europe. Three weeks later, he was promoted to commanding officer of the 703rd.

The 445th Bombardment Group arrived in England on 23 November 1943, and after initial operational training, was stationed at RAF Tibenham, Norfolk, England. The unit flew its first combat mission on 13 December 1943, with Captain Stewart leading the high squadron of the group formation in an attack against enemy submarine pens at Kiel, Germany. On his second mission, Jimmy Stewart led the entire 445th Group.

Following World War II, Jimmy Stewart remained in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a Reserve Officer, and with the United States Air Force after it became a separate service in 1947. Colonel Stewart commanded Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Georgia. In 1953, his wartime rank of colonel was made permanent, and on 23 July 1959, Jimmy Stewart was promoted to Brigadier General.

During his active duty periods, Colonel Stewart remained current as a pilot of Convair B-36 Peacemaker, Boeing B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress intercontinental bombers of the Strategic Air Command.

During his military service, Brigadier General James Maitland Stewart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster (two awards); the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters; the Distinguished Service Medal; and the Croix de Guerre avec Palme (France).

General Stewart retired from the U.S. Air Force on 1 June 1968 after 27 years of service.

More stuff I didn’t know:

In World War II, Jimmy Stewart answered the same patriotic call as many men and joined the military. Even though Stewart was a working actor at the time, he felt the call to duty like anyone else and made it his mission to serve America in its time of need. For Stewart it wasn’t just about gaining the accolades and attaboys, he genuinely wanted to serve his country, but that came at a price. By the end of World War II he was suffering from PTSD, something that affected him deeply while filming It’s A Wonderful Life.

By the end of World War II Stewart wasn’t doing well. Men serving with him at the time said that he was suffering from battle fatigue, not in the sense that he was afraid of going into battle, but that he was worried about losing men while performing missions over Europe. This kind of “endless stress” is what grounded him for good towards the end of the war.

Both Stewart and director Frank Capra were dealing with their own personal demons while they were filming It’s A Wonderful Life, but Stewart was certain that he didn’t know how to act anymore. Biographer Robert Matzen writes:

If you watch that performance by Stewart, there was a lot of rage in it and it’s an on-the-edge performance because that’s what those guys were feeling — they were scared that this wasn’t going to work. That the audience wasn’t going to buy it. Donna Reed (playing Stewart’s wife in the film) is one of the eyewitnesses who said, ‘This was not a happy set.’ These guys were very tense. They would go off and huddle say, ‘Should we try this? Should we try that?’ And it proceeded that way for months.

Stewart’s pain and stress is evident in every scene of the film, it’s likely why the film is so affecting. 

Stewart died in 1997, bless his heart. They sure don’t make Hollywood celebs like they used to, eh? Then again, they don’t make Americans like they used to, either.

(First link via Insty)

“Daddy, how do airplanes fly?”

Correct answer: nobody really knows.

No One Can Explain Why Planes Stay In The Air

  • On a strictly mathematical level, engineers know how to design planes that will stay aloft. But equations don’t explain why aerodynamic lift occurs.
  • There are two competing theories that illuminate the forces and factors of lift. Both are incomplete explanations.
  • Aerodynamicists have recently tried to close the gaps in understanding. Still, no consensus exists.

In December 2003, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first flight of the Wright brothers, the New York Times ran a story entitled “Staying Aloft; What Does Keep Them Up There?” The point of the piece was a simple question: What keeps planes in the air? To answer it, the Times turned to John D. Anderson, Jr., curator of aerodynamics at the National Air and Space Museum and author of several textbooks in the field.

What Anderson said, however, is that there is actually no agreement on what generates the aerodynamic force known as lift. “There is no simple one-liner answer to this,” he told the Times. People give different answers to the question, some with “religious fervor.” More than 15 years after that pronouncement, there are still different accounts of what generates lift, each with its own substantial rank of zealous defenders. At this point in the history of flight, this situation is slightly puzzling. After all, the natural processes of evolution, working mindlessly, at random and without any understanding of physics, solved the mechanical problem of aerodynamic lift for soaring birds eons ago. Why should it be so hard for scientists to explain what keeps birds, and airliners, up in the air?

Even as extraordinarily broad and supple an intellect as Einstein’s couldn’t suss it all out:

In Germany, one of the scientists who applied themselves to the problem of lift was none other than Albert Einstein. In 1916 Einstein published a short piece in the journal Die Naturwissenschaften entitled “Elementary Theory of Water Waves and of Flight,” which sought to explain what accounted for the carrying capacity of the wings of flying machines and soaring birds. “There is a lot of obscurity surrounding these questions,” Einstein wrote. “Indeed, I must confess that I have never encountered a simple answer to them even in the specialist literature.”

Einstein then proceeded to give an explanation that assumed an incompressible, frictionless fluid—that is, an ideal fluid. Without mentioning Bernoulli by name, he gave an account that is consistent with Bernoulli’s principle by saying that fluid pressure is greater where its velocity is slower, and vice versa. To take advantage of these pressure differences, Einstein proposed an airfoil with a bulge on top such that the shape would increase airflow velocity above the bulge and thus decrease pressure there as well.

Einstein probably thought that his ideal-fluid analysis would apply equally well to real-world fluid flows. In 1917, on the basis of his theory, Einstein designed an airfoil that later came to be known as a cat’s-back wing because of its resemblance to the humped back of a stretching cat. He brought the design to aircraft manufacturer LVG (Luftverkehrsgesellschaft) in Berlin, which built a new flying machine around it. A test pilot reported that the craft waddled around in the air like “a pregnant duck.” Much later, in 1954, Einstein himself called his excursion into aeronautics a “youthful folly.” The individual who gave us radically new theories that penetrated both the smallest and the largest components of the universe nonetheless failed to make a positive contribution to the understanding of lift or to come up with a practical airfoil design.

Can’t recollect via whom I found this one; I suspect it was probably Insty, but a bit of searching around at his place didn’t turn it up. Whoever it was, my abjectest apology for failing to acknowledge the find with a return link. It’s a fascinating article all around, if you’re into the whole aviation thing. Which, y’know, I am.

The US Space Force is NOT a joke?

Saying it doesn’t make it so, I’m afraid.

Last month, not long before boarding a plane to Mar-a-Lago for Christmas, President Donald Trump signed legislation that created the newest military branch in the United States in more than 70 years: the Space Force.

The new Space Force instead exists inside the Department of the Air Force, in an arrangement similar to that of the Marine Corps and the Navy, which both operate under the Department of the Navy. There will be no secretary of space: As space-ops chief, (General Jay) Raymond now holds the organization’s highest position. The law also stipulates that the Space Force must be built from existing personnel in the Air Force, and does not have the authority to hire new people. The Space Force has simply absorbed the Air Force unit that focuses on space operations, the Air Force Space Command, which was established in 1982. Its members will remain Air Force officers, but those with space-related roles will become Space Force officers in the next year and a half.

Uh oh— with the Space Force under USAF purview instead of being a Space Navy, pretty much the entire output of every SF/space opera writer since Heinlein just went kaput. I bet David Weber, for one, just about had himself a mild stroke when he heard the news.

The prospect of a Space Force has been hazy since Trump first mentioned it, mostly because the proposal seemed to be a passing thought. “I was saying it the other day—’cause we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space—I said, ‘Maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the Space Force,’” Trump said back in 2018, to an audience of marines. “And I was not really serious. And then I said, ‘What a great idea. Maybe we’ll have to do that.’”

Your biggest official mistake so far, Mr Preznit sir, maybe even an unforgivable one. Why the obvious and totally spectacular name—Star Fleet, dammit!—didn’t occur to you is beyond my ken. Star Fleet already has the uniforms, rank structure, mission profile, and a cool logo ready to go.

On the other hand, though, maybe Trump prefers to wait for the United Federation of Planets to come into existence for that, perhaps as a matter of good taste. But such deference isn’t necessary according to the Star Trek canon itself, for cryin’ out loud:

Starfleet predates the Federation, having originally been an Earth organization, as shown by the television series Star Trek: Enterprise.

So there. Onwards.

The immediate future of the Space Force involves a lot of paperwork and a dash of symbolism, rather than new uniforms and fight songs. Raymond will join the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military officials who advise the president directly, and the service must come up with and submit an organization plan to Congress in February.

While the Space Force is now official, a slight disconnect in reality remains.

I’d say so, yeah, only a goodish bit more than merely “slight.” How could it be otherwise, when the sad shell of the once-great NASA now lacks the hardware and wherewithal to boost humans into high Earth orbit anymore, and American astronauts are reduced to begging a lift to the ISS from the Russians, Indians, Chinese, Ethiopians, or whatever other third-rater out there might have a working rocket handy?

Jeez, even the Air Farce’s mainstay atmospheric platforms are creaky, leaky, and geriatric at fifty to seventy years young, while our supposedly latest and greatest design is looking like more of an albatross (or an apteryx) than an eagle. And just how do we regain our national mojo as doughty explorers of the Final Frontier when we’ve become such trembling ninnies about safety and risk-avoidance that we wet ourselves in fright at the thought of letting our kids play outside?

Maybe the creation of a Space Force with no readily usable spacefaring vehicles at hand could turn out to be a boost for nascent private outfits like SpaceX, and a lift to the spirits for those of us cake-eating civilians who still care about these things. But I can’t help but feel it’s a mildly embarrassing bit of hubris as well. Who knows, maybe we’ll live up to it someday. If we don’t, it’s a dead cert that somebody else will.

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