Everybody comes to Casablanca? First presidential flight, January 14, 1943

January 15, 2014

Humphrey Bogart’s great turn in “Casablanca” got its start from an intended-for Broadway play, “Everybody Comes to Rick’s.

Rick’s Cafe Americain existed only in fiction, an invention of Murray Burnett and his playwright partner Joan Alison.  Casablanca was a rendezvous for people engages in some secret negotiations related to the war, however.

Historian Micheal Beschloss tweeted a photo of President Franklin Roosevelt on the airplane, flying to Casablanca to meet with Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on January 14, 1943 — the first time a sitting president had flown in an airplane.  Roosevelt’s cousin Theodore flew in 1910, almost two years after he’d left the presidency.

More details! (Wasn’t that what you said?)

What kind of airplane was it?  Who are those other people? Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine already obliged with some details.  The airplane was a Boeing 314 flying boat, operated by TWA.

Photo from the FDR library, showing President Roosevelt in a happy conversation with the TWA pilot of the Boeing 314, Otis Bryan.

Photo from the FDR library, showing President Roosevelt in a happy conversation with the TWA pilot of the Boeing 314, Otis Bryan.

These photos may have been taken on a second flight Roosevelt took once he got to Africa; here are some more  details from Air & Space:

The Casablanca Conference, held 70 years ago this week [article from 2013], is remembered today for the agreement by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to demand unconditional surrender from their Axis enemies. But even before the leaders sat down to talk, FDR made history. His trip across the Atlantic, in a Boeing 314 flying boat, was the first time a sitting U.S. president flew on an airplane.

Nobody was more impressed than his pilots. The flights had been planned in secrecy, and when Roosevelt and his entourage showed up at the Pan American airways base in Miami on the morning of January 11, 1943, to board the Dixie Clipper, “[the crew] were very much surprised to learn the identity of our guest,” recalled Pan Am pilot Howard M. Cone, Jr.  Cone, a 34-year-old veteran of transoceanic flights, flew Roosevelt, advisor Harry Hopkins and several military leaders on one Clipper, while another flying boat carried the presidential staff.

Cone said the President was an “excellent passenger” and a “good air sailor” on his 15,000-mile round-trip, displaying an impressive knowledge of geography on a journey that included stops in Trinidad and Brazil. Once in Africa, Roosevelt boarded a TWA C-54 piloted by 35-year-old Captain Otis F. Bryan, who flew him from Bathurst, Gambia to Morocco. The trip back from Casablanca included a flyover of the harbor at Dakar, Senegal, at an altitude of 3,000 feet.

In a War Department press conference following their return to the States, the two airline pilots couldn’t stop effusing about their VIP passenger’s ability to “make you feel perfectly at home. We felt at ease as long as he was,” said Bryan. Roosevelt even joined in the ritual of signing “short snorters” for the crew — dollar bills autographed by all the passengers on a flight.

The President also celebrated his 61st birthday on the way back, dining on caviar, olives, celery, pickles, turkey, dressing, green peas, cake, and champagne. (Captain Cone, reported the New York Times, drank coffee instead.)

It will take more sleuthing to identify all the people in the photos.  71 years ago this week.

More:


Will Rogers and Wiley Post crashed in Alaska, August 15, 1935

August 15, 2013

Will Rogers, images from Will Rogers Museums, Oklahoma

Will Rogers, images from Will Rogers Museums, Oklahoma

August 15, the Ides of August, hosted several significant events through the years.  In 1935, it was a tragic day in Alaska, as an airplane crash took lives of Will Rogers and Wiley Post.  To refresh your memory, an encore post, with a few edits and additions.

After Mark Twain died, America found another great humorist, raconteur, story-teller, who tickled the nation’s funny-bone and pricked the collective social conscience at the same time. Will Rogers is most famous today for his sentiment that he never met a man he didn’t like. In 1935, he was at the height of his popularity, still performing as a lariat-twirling, Vaudeville comedian who communed with presidents, and kept his common sense. He wrote a daily newspaper column that was carried in 500 newspapers across America.  Rogers was so popular that Texas and Oklahoma have dueled over who gets the bragging rights in claiming him as a native son.

Will Rogers ready to perform.  Photo taken prior to 1900 - Wikimedia

Will Rogers ready to perform. Photo taken prior to 1900 – Wikimedia

Wiley Post was known as one of the best pilots in America. He gained fame by being the first pilot to fly solo around the world. Post was famous for his work developing new ways to fly at high altitudes. Post was born in Texas and moved to Oklahoma. He lost an eye in an oil-field accident in 1924, then used the settlement money to buy his first airplane. He befriended Will Rogers when flying Rogers to an appearance at a Rodeo, and the two kept up their friendship literally to death.

Post asked Rogers to come along on a tour of the great unknown land of Alaska, where Post was trying to map routes for mail planes to Russia. Ever adventurous, Rogers agreed — he could file his newspaper columns from Alaska by radio and telephone. On August 15, 1935, their airplane crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska, killing them both.

Wiley Post, first to fly solo around the world, in an early pressure suit for high-altitude flying - Wikimedia photo

Wiley Post, first to fly solo around the world, in an early pressure suit for high-altitude flying – Wikimedia photo

On August 15, 2008, a ceremony in Claremore, Oklahoma, honored the two men on the 73rd anniversary of their deaths. About 50 pilots from Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas will fly in to the Claremore Airport for the Will Rogers-Wiley Post Fly-In Weekend. Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Jari Askins will offer a tribute.

Rogers was 56, leaving behind his wife, Betty, and four children. Post, 36, left a widow.

Rogers’ life is really quite legendary. Historian Joseph H. Carter summed it up:

Will Rogers was first an Indian, a cowboy then a national figure. He now is a legend.

Born in 1879 on a large ranch in the Cherokee Nation near what later would become Oologah, Oklahoma, Will Rogers was taught by a freed slave how to use a lasso as a tool to work Texas Longhorn cattle on the family ranch.
As he grew older, Will Rogers’ roping skills developed so special that he was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for throwing three lassos at once: One rope caught the running horse’s neck, the other would hoop around the rider and the third swooped up under the horse to loop all four legs.

Will Rogers’ unsurpassed lariat feats were recorded in the classic movie, “The Ropin’ Fool.”

His hard-earned skills won him jobs trick roping in wild west shows and on the vaudeville stages where, soon, he started telling small jokes.

Quickly, his wise cracks and folksy observations became more prized by audiences than his expert roping. He became recognized as being a very informed and smart philosopher–telling the truth in very simple words so that everyone could understand.

After the 10th grade, Will Rogers dropped out of school to become a cowboy in a cattle drive. He always regretted that he didn’t finish school, but he made sure that he never stopped learning–reading, thinking and talking to smart people. His hard work paid off.

Will Rogers was the star of Broadway and 71 movies of the 1920s and 1930s; a popular broadcaster; besides writing more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns and befriending Presidents, Senators and Kings.

During his lifetime, he traveled around the globe three times– meeting people, covering wars, talking about peace and learning everything possible.

He wrote six books. In fact he published more than two million words. He was the first big time radio commentator, was a guest at the White House and his opinions were sought by the leaders of the world.

Inside himself, Will Rogers remained a simple Oklahoma cowboy. “I never met a man I didn’t like,” was his credo of genuine love and respect for humanity and all people everywhere. He gave his own money to disaster victims and raised thousands for the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Post’s legacy is significant, too. His employer, Oklahoma oil man F. C. Hall, encouraged Post to push for aviation records using Hall’s Lockheed Vega, and Post was happy to comply. Before his history-making trip around the world, he had won races and navigation contests. NASA traces the development of the space-walking suits worn by astronauts to Post’s early attempts for flight records:

For Wiley Post to achieve the altitude records he sought, he needed protection. (Pressurized aircraft cabins had not yet been developed.) Post’s solution was a suit that could be pressurized by his airplane engine’s supercharger.

First attempts at building a pressure suit failed since the suit became rigid and immobile when pressurized. Post discovered he couldn’t move inside the inflated suit, much less work airplane controls. A later version succeeded with the suit constructed already in a sitting position. This allowed Post to place his hands on the airplane controls and his feet on the rudder bars. Moving his arms and legs was difficult, but not impossible. To provide visibility, a viewing port was part of the rigid helmet placed over Post’s head. The port was small, but a larger one was unnecessary because Post had only one good eye!

Last photo of Will Rogers (in the hat) and Wiley Post, in Alaska in 1935 (from Century of Flight)

Last photo of Will Rogers (in the hat) and Wiley Post, in Alaska in 1935 (from Century of Flight)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Alaska bush advocate Pamela Bumsted.

Resources:


Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina: Wright Bros. National Memorial

December 17, 2012

Kill Devil Hills monument to theWright Brothers

Wikipedia description: Standing sixty feet (18.3 meters) tall and perched atop a ninety foot (27.4 meters) stabilized sand dune known as Kill Devil Hill, this monument towers over Wright Brothers National Memorial Park in Kill Devil Hills, NC. The park commemorates and preserves the site where the Wright brothers launched the world’s first successful sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. The inscription that wraps around the base of the monument states “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.” Photo by Ken Thomas, taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 in Dare County, NC, USA.

At this site, on December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright first achieved flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

 


December 17, history written in the wind

December 17, 2012

Ten feet in altitude, 120 feet traveled, 12 seconds long. That was the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine achieved by Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.

Few witnesses observed the flight.  Though the brothers Wright fully understood the potential of the machine they had created, even they waited before revealing to their supporters, and then the world, what they had accomplished.

From the Library of Congress:

On the morning of December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took turns piloting and monitoring their flying machine in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first flight that lasted just twelve seconds. On the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur traveled 852 feet, remaining airborne for 57 seconds. That morning the brothers became the first people to demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine under the complete control of the pilot.

No lost luggage, no coffee, no tea, no meal in a basket, either.  No ATC (Air Traffic Control) delays.  Neither brother endured a TSA screening.

Resources on the Wright Brothers’ first flight:

(I almost always forget the big dates until the end of the day.  This is mostly an encore post.)


British Airways: Crazy-like-a-fox patriotism in advertising

July 13, 2012

This television advertisement is circulating among airline and travel folk:

Why would British Airways make an ad that encourages Britons to stay at home during the Olympics?

Join the conversation and see the plane on your own street at http://www.facebook.com/britishairways #HomeAdvantage

This summer, the greatest sports event on Earth comes to London. And our best sportsmen and women have a once in a lifetime opportunity, to compete at the highest level with the whole country behind them. That’s why we’re asking the nation to join together, to give our athletes the greatest home advantage we can give them. It could be the difference in seconds and millimetres, turning silver into gold. This summer, there’s nowhere else in the world to be.

Even more analysis:

Millard Fillmore traveled to London after his presidency.  One story claims that, upon meeting Fillmore, Queen Victoria proclaimed him “the handsomest man” she had ever met.

After the death of his daughter Mary, Fillmore went abroad. While touring Europe in 1855, Fillmore was offered an honorary Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.) degree by the University of Oxford. Fillmore turned down the honor, explaining that he had neither the “literary nor scientific attainment” to justify the degree.[22] He is also quoted as having explained that he “lacked the benefit of a classical education” and could not, therefore, understand the Latin text of the diploma, adding that he believed “no man should accept a degree he cannot read.”[9]

Tip of the small, folding travel scrub brush to Gil Brassard, believe it or not.

More:


Time lapse flight, San Francisco to Paris

January 23, 2012

I continue to like time-lapse photo compilations, and I continue to wonder about how to use them to expand geography teaching.  It’s a great circle route, over the Arctic nearing the North Pole.  This movie comes from Nate Bolt, who posts his work at Beepshow.

Obviously I’m not the only one who likes it — between the YouTube and Vimeo sites, the movie has more than 4 million viewers.

Bolt explained at YouTube:

More of these time lapses at http://beepshow.com

I shot a photo roughly every two miles between take-off in San Francisco and landing in Paris CDG to make this airplane time lapse. For some reason the Vimeo version of this is more linked to: http://vimeo.com/21822029

Shot with a 5d2, a time-lapse controller, and a 16mm – 35mm, mixed with some iPhone shots. The flight path from SF to Paris goes well over greenland and the arctic circle, where you can see “northern” lights from all sides of the plane, which explains why I could shoot them facing South.

Big thanks to the folks at http://uxlondon.com for inviting me to europe to speak – if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have made the trip. The music is a modified template of “Gain” used with permission from DETUNE ltd. denkitribe http://soundcloud.com/denkitribe/gain – I created this arrangement on the Korg iMS20 iPad App, and it’s my first custom score. Edits and pans in After Effects CS5 and iMovie.

The photos during take-off and landing are all computer models and totally rendered because I would never use an electronic device during times when the FAA prohibits them. I did get lucky and have a whole row to myself to setup the tripod and gear.

Thanks to my neighbors for not minding an SLR click every 2 to 30 seconds for 11 hours, and thanks to the whole Air France flight crew for being insanely friendly and allowing me to shoot. Thanks to @ztaylor for showing me the Korg iMS20 iPad App. Thanks to @jayzombie and the #nerdbird on the way to SXSW this year for helping me come up with the idea. Thanks to @somnabulent for the idea of live scoring. Thanks to you for actually reading this far. You are a champion.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Boys’ Life Heads Up blog.


George Jetson come true? Maverick Flying Car at Oshkosh

April 14, 2011

Next time somebody asks ‘where’s my flying car?” you can show them this.

Steve Saint of I-TEC drove his road-legal flying car from Florida to Oshkosh this summer. Since then the FAA has also issued the Maverick a S-LSA aircraft airworthiness certificate. I-TEC hopes to be in production by EAA Oshkosh 2011.

[Because it comes with built-in autoplay from the Experimental Aircraft Association, it's below the fold.]

Read the rest of this entry »


The view from the seat of the pilot of the Enola Gay / Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

December 19, 2010

Old friend and thorn in the side Gil Brassard in Baton Rouge alerted us to this wonderful marriage of modern technology and history from David Palermo Photography — an interactive, panoramic view of the cockpit of the Enola Gay, the B-29 from which the first atomic bomb used in war was dropped.

How can you use this in class, teachers?  Got a lesson plan that puts a student in the seat of the pilot?

Enola Gay / Smithsonian National Air and Space …, posted with vodpod

For technical reasons beyond my ken, one may not make this a full screen image. No problem. Go to David Palermo’s site, and see this as big as your computer monitor. I recommend viewing it there — it’s better, really.

Palermo has a portfolio of cockpits he’s shot at the Smithsonian, including the French Concorde, Gemini VII, a Bell Huey helicopter, Mercury Friendship VII, and a Lockheed Martin X-35 — with spherical panoramas available of those and more (look for the link that says “HD360°” and look at the drop-down menu).  He sells massive prints of the cockpits — something special for aviation and space buffs.


October 14: Chuck Yeager/BOOM! Day

October 15, 2010

Rats. On October 14 I missed noting the anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s great feat, breaking the sound barrier in level flight.

BOOM! Day.

Greg Laden’s blog reminded me, “Happy Anniversary, the Breaking of the Barrier.” Below, what I wrote in 2007, mostly still accurate.

_____________

Panorama of the Mountains noted the 60th anniversary of the first known faster-than-sound flight by a human — October 14, 1947. Test pilot and all-around good guy Chuck Yeager did it.

Bell X-1, on display at National Air and Space Museum

Bell X-1 displayed at the National Air and Space Museum

This is a great post-World War II, Cold War story of technology that should pique interest in the time and the events for many students. For a 90 minute class, a solid lesson plan could be developed around the science and technology of the flight (yes, even in history — this is key stuff in the development of economics, too). The physics of sound, a brief history of flight and aircraft, the reasons for post-war development of such technologies, the political situation: There are a dozen hooks to get into the topic. Fair use would cover showing a clip from “The Right Stuff” about the flight, and there are some dramatic clips there. (The movie is 3 hours and 13 minutes; great stuff in a format too long for classroom use. Is there any possibility your kids would read the Tom Wolfe book?)

When will someone – the Air Force? NASA? an aircraft company? — put together a DVD with authorized film clips from the newsreels and the movie, and suggested warm ups and quiz questions?

Back in the bad old days one of my elementary school teachers did an entire morning on the speed of sound, aircraft engineering, and the history of faster-than-sound flight. I learned the accurate way to measure the distance to lightning by counting seconds to the thunder (it’s about a mile for every 5 seconds, not a mile for every second, as our school-yard lore had it).

Chuck Yeager at C. R. Smith Museum, 7-25-2010 - photo by Ed Darrell

Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager at the C. R. Smith Museum at American Airlines HQ, July 25, 2010. Photo by Ed Darrell

This program, to fly at the speed of sound, at what is now Edwards Air Force Base changed the way science of flight is done in the U.S. Yeager led the group of Air Force pilots who proved that military pilots could do the testing of aircraft; the project proved the value of conducting research with experimental aircraft on military time. The methods developed for testing, evaluating, redesigning and retesting are still used today. The drive for safety for the pilots also grew out of these early efforts at supersonic flight.

Yeager’s flight came when technology was cool, not just for the virtual reality role playing games (RPGs), which were still decades in the future, but because it was new, interesting, and it opened a world of possibilities. We all wanted to fly airplanes, especially small, fast airplanes. A sonic boom over southern Idaho produced a couple dozen calls to the local police and fire departments (long before 911 emergency calling systems), and a couple of paragraphs in the local newspaper.Later, when we moved to Utah County at the foot of Mt. Timpanogos, we kids relished the flights of fighter jets at 6,000 or 7,000 feet above MSL on their way to or from Hill AFB in Ogden, only a thousand feet or so above our heads in those mountain valleys.

Whether authorized to fly them or not, the fighter jocks recruited us kids with their ground-hugging forays. And if one jet occasionally passed the speed of sound, the school bus-stop would buzz with it for a couple of days, as we tried to determine whether anybody ever really lost a window to such fun and excitement as a sonic boom. We could hardly wait to be the pilots of those airplanes, giving a start and a thrill to housewives across America who worried their replica Ming vases and picture windows would crash to smithereens.

Supersonic transport excited me then, and still does. As a lover of the environment, perhaps I should have stood firmly against supersonic flights of the British-French Concord over the U.S., but I hoped a compromise could be reached. New York to Los Angeles in two hours seemed like a good idea to me at the time, and it still does. The U.S. legislated ban on supersonic passenger flights probably doomed the idea of supersonic transport. Boeing dropped its plans to build a competitor to the Concord. The Concord itself never got the support it needed to continue production and refinement of the idea. By the time the Concord was retired in October 2004, it was 50-year-old technology.

I wondered at the time what would have happened had research on passenger supersonic flight continued. Shutting off technology is a strange thing. Steam engine technology was poised to make a great leap forward in the early 20th century, some argue. Diesel and gasoline engine sales blocked the leap, especially the creation of the Diesel-electric railroad locomotive engine.

But make no mistake about it: The Concord was fun. My friend Perry W. Buffington — as amiable and useful a traveling companion as is known in the modern world — found a fantastic fare for a Concord flight for us over the Christmas-New Year’s holidays, 1978 and 1979. We flew to London on a Delta L-1011 on Christmas night; we spent a week in London getting cheap tickets to great shows (the Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker, featuring a kid I knew from Spanish Fork, Utah; Pirates of Penzance at D’Oyly Carte; Evita in the first run, as I recall; a great revival of Oliver! Great stuff, cheap tickets). Then, to cap it off, the Concord from London to New York. Mach 2, on January 1.

It snowed record depths in all of southern England. On New Year’s Eve day, we skated the snow-packed streets to Harrod’s for last minute souvenir shopping, and bumped into Lauren Bacall. Then we sat in the bar of the hotel and watched the news reports of how the entire country was shut down by the snow, including the British Railroad. Our flight out seemed to be due a delay, at least. But we got a call from British Airways confirming the flight, later that night. So on January 1 we got a snowcat — not really, just a brave taxi — to the downtown check-in office of BA.

Then the show kicked in. The agent checking us in took our bags, reached into a drawer and pulled out a roll of pound notes. Without breaking his conversation with us, he beckoned over a woman who was helping passengers onto the shuttle bus to Heathrow, handed her the roll of bills and said simply, “Concord for these gentleman.” She sprinted to the curb outside and hailed a taxi. The agent had called the airport and informed us that while nothing else had flown, “The Concord will depart on schedule. Thank you for flying British Air — your taxi is waiting.” The woman at the curb held the door for us — no bus shuttle for Concord passengers!

The taxi rocketed to Heathrow. I don’t know how much BA paid, but the driver was extremely happy to move us at extreme speeds over slippery roads.

Concord waiting lounges provided the best amenities. Separated from even First Class lounges, the free champagne, and any other liquor, was served on the ground as well as in the air. For morning departures, a chef in the lounge created elaborate egg dishes to order, for breakfast.

Flying the Concord was always a celebrity experience. The festive feeling of our New Year’s Day flight zoomed considerably when Lauren Bacall breezed into the waiting room. (The only other time I got into a Concord lounge was at Dulles a few years later; Ray Charles checked in for the flight. He asked for a window seat.) We watched a television news report that all flights at Heathrow were delayed by the snow as we got the announcement the Concord was ready to board, on time. If our flight wasn’t the only flight leaving Heathrow that day, it was definitely the first. “Snow doesn’t bother the Concord,” one agent explained.

Supersonic flight passenger jets present special problems to air traffic control, especially with their speed. Plus, they fly better where the air is thinner. So instead of the normal 30,000 to 45,000 feet altitude of commercial airliners, Concords flew at about 70,000 feet. This becomes clear to a passenger on take off: Concords get off the ground, and then take a radically steeper climb that, from the inside, feels like going straight up. At cruising altitude, at about noon, a passenger looking out the window can look up to see the blue sky disappearing into darkness (a night flight with the Aurora Borealis must have been some great spectacle).

Concord’s cabin was not spacious. It held 100 passengers, a bit smaller than a modern 737. The food service was divine, with plenty of stewards on hand to attend to passengers. Among the best lamb chops I’ve ever had (and mind you, I come from sheep country). Complimentary champagne, wine, and cigars — “not Cuban, I’m sorry,” the steward explained. “U.S. rules.”

Sit back, sip the champagne, or puff a cigar and sip the port, and watch the Machmeter: “0.5 . . . 0.7 . . . 0.9 . . . 1.0 (Mach 1, the speed of sound).” The ride, smooth as it was, got a lot smoother. The entire aircraft was quieter. “1.3 . . . 1.7 . . . 2.0.” Twice the speed of sound is half as scary as Mach 1, once you’re already moving so fast.

Two hours from Heathrow to JFK. We flew faster than the time zones changed, landing a couple of hours earlier than our departure. Time travel!

(The week in London, airfare there, and the Concord back, was under $1,500 in 1978. Inflation affected the prices before the Concord retired.)

Two in my immediate family have flown faster than sound. My brother, Wes, flew F-4s. And champagne and steward service notwithstanding, he had the much better deal. He did it more often, and he had the stick.

Chuck Yeager did it first, in level flight (there is some conjecture that a British pilot had done it earlier, in a dive — but he didn’t recover from the dive).

How best to commemorate breaking the sound barrier? Do it again!

Photo of Astronauts Chuck Yeager and Dave Scott, with their co-pilots, prior to the 60th anniversary sound-barrier breaking flight, 2007 Edwards AFB

Astronauts Chuck Yeager and Dave Scott, with their co-pilots, prior to the 60th anniversary sound-barrier breaking flight, 2007 Edwards AFB

Edwards Air Force Base, September 21, 2007 – General Yeager flew a US Air Force F-16 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Breaking the Sound Barrier (October 14, 2007), the 60th anniversary of the United States Air Force (September 18, 2007) and 65 years of General Yeager flying in military cockpits. Yeager was part of a flight of four planes; two F-16’s with Gen. Chuck Yeager and Maj. Gen. Joe Engle aboard, and two T-38’s carrying F-15 pilot Fitz Fulton, NASA Astronaut Col. Dave Scott, and Commander Curt Bedke. Yeager and Engle’s F-16’s broke the sound barrier high above the Base Operations Center – a double sonic boom, then the four planes executed a slow straight through pass, pitched out, landed, and taxied up to the hanger where the 2007 Air Force Ball was about to begin, attended by more than 1,000. Hundreds of ball guests, in gowns, tuxedoes, and dress blues, were assembled to greet the flyers, who snapped on black bowties and strolled into the ball wearing their flight suits. Gen. Yeager was honored at the dinner with a 60th Anniversary Sound Barrier Busting cake.

Additional resources:


Geography quiz: Which Midwest city is this?

August 9, 2010

Quick quiz:  Can you identify this Midwest American city?

Mystery Midwest city from the air

Can you identify the city shown in this photo? Photo by James Darrell, flying to DFW from ATL. (Click for larger view)

Can you identify this Midwest city?  The photo was taken about an hour outside of DFW International, flying in from Atlanta Hartsfield.  North in on the right side of the photo.  My quick guess was Oklahoma City, but that was when I thought the departure city was Milwaukee (it could still be OKC).

Can you shed some light, and tell why you think it’s that city?

Night flying is cool.  While I enjoy flying any time, I really enjoy the views from an airplane at night.

Somewhere in the trunk of film-that-may-one-day-be-digitized, I have several photos of smaller cities along the Wasatch Front in Utah, taken during campaigns and business trips in the 1970s and 1980s.  At one time I had a list of the cities in the shots, but that list is long gone.  I wonder whether I could identify those cities today?

Historically, it would be interesting, since most of those small towns now are sizable suburb cities.

Chicago lays out in an orange grid of glowing citrine gemstones at night.  New York City dazzles from 2,000 feet, looking better than any movie you’ve ever seen, and glowing.  Dallas presents a colored outline against the black sky when you come in for a landing (or Fort Worth, with more white lights, if you’re on the west side of the aircraft coming in).  Salt Lake City sparkles and spreads up the mountains and canyons.  St. Louis is neat rows of lighted pathways broken by the snaking Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  Washington, D.C. is a Shining City on a Hill spectacular when the weather is clear, coming down the Potomac River to National (now Reagan).

Which city is this one, above?

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Chuck Yeager in Dallas

July 31, 2010

Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, C. R. Smith Museum, Ft. Worth Texas,  July 25, 2010

Can you tell at what angle his airplane was, at this moment of the story? Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, C. R. Smith Museum, Ft. Worth Texas, July 25, 2010 - (photo by Ed Darrell - use permitted with attribution)

Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager accepted a donation of an old footlocker related to an old friend for the American Airlines C. R. Smith Museum, on Sunday, July 25, 2010, at the Museum in Fort Worth.  He spoke for nearly two hours, showing a film biography, and taking questions from the audience of nearly 300, including about 80 other pilots.

Do we need to introduce Yeager? He’s recognized as the first man to break the sound barrier in level flight, a veteran of flying in U.S. wars from World War II to Vietnam, and one of the most storied and respected test pilots ever, flying for low pay for the Air Force.  His exploits open the story of the Mercury Astronauts in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, and the movie that followed.

I’ve heard him speak briefly before, but this was a great treat.  I’m sure he can be caught sometime without a smile, but not on this day.  Yeager spoke about his great love, flying.   He minced no words — you won’t find an unedited video of this speech, I’ll wager.

Enthusiasm for a topic goes a long way to make a great speaker.  Yeager has enthusiasm.

In our family, we’ve always enjoyed laughing about our fighter pilot, Wes.  When he drove the delivery truck for my father’s furniture and appliance store, he’d vocalize the way he wished the engine sounded in a five-speed racer, and not the three-speed manual, six-cylinder 1955 GMC he was driving.  It was charming way back then, in the GMC.

We suspected he did the same thing when he was flying jets.  His co-pilots would never deny it.

I think all great pilots do little things they are not aware of when they really enjoy the flying, or the story about the flying.

See Gen. Yeager’s left hand in the photo above?  He’s talking about flying.  From his hand, you can tell the attitude of the airplane at that point of the story.

And in the photo below?  I think that’s the one where he’s explaining a dog fight.

See the story in his hands?

Yeager, explaining a dogfight - photo by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution

Chuck Yeager explains a dogfight to a DFW audience - photo by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution


Bathtub reading on a warm June Sunday

June 7, 2009

I thought everybody does serious reading in the bathtub, no?

The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona; the Pima Air & Space Museum now offers bus tours of the 309th Maintenance and Regeneration Groups collection of scrapped and very historic airplanes

The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona; the Pima Air & Space Museum now offers bus tours of the 309th Maintenance and Regeneration Group's collection of scrapped and very historic airplanes

Can’t soak all day.


Historic winds of December

December 17, 2008

In English, it’s just one letter difference between “winds” and “wings.”  An encore post, commemorating one historic event from December 17 involving both winds and wings:

December 17, written in the wind

Wright Bros. flyer at Kittyhawk, first flight

Photo from Treasures of the Library of Congress; “First Flight” by John T. Daniels (d. 1948); this is a modern gelatin print from the glass negative.

Ten feet in altitude, 120 feet traveled, 12 seconds long. That was the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine achieved by Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.

From the Library of Congress:

On the morning of December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took turns piloting and monitoring their flying machine in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first flight that lasted just twelve seconds. On the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur traveled 852 feet, remaining airborne for 57 seconds. That morning the brothers became the first people to demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine under the complete control of the pilot.

No lost luggage, no coffee, no tea, no meal in a basket, either.

Resources on the Wright Brothers’ first flight:


Will Rogers and Wiley Post crash in Alaska, 1935

August 15, 2008

Will Rogers, images from Will Rogers Museums, Oklahoma

Will Rogers, images from Will Rogers Museums, Oklahoma

After Mark Twain died, America found another great humorist, raconteur, story-teller, who tickled the nation’s funny-bone and pricked the collective social conscience at the same time. Will Rogers is most famous today for his sentiment that he never met a man he didn’t like. In 1935, he was at the height of his popularity, still performing as a lariat-twirling, Vaudeville comedian who communed with presidents, and kept his common sense. He wrote a daily newspaper column that was carried in 500 newspapers across America.  Rogers was so popular that Texas and Oklahoma have dueled over who gets the bragging rights in claiming him as a native son.

Will Rogers ready to perform.  Photo taken prior to 1900 - Wikimedia

Will Rogers ready to perform. Photo taken prior to 1900 - Wikimedia

Wiley Post was known as one of the best pilots in America. He gained fame by being the first pilot to fly solo around the world. Post was famous for his work developing new ways to fly at high altitudes. Post was born in Texas and moved to Oklahoma. He lost an eye in an oil-field accident in 1924, then used the settlement money to buy his first airplane. He befriended Will Rogers when flying Rogers to an appearance at a Rodeo, and the two kept up their friendship literally to death.

Post asked Rogers to come along on a tour of the great unknown land of Alaska, where Post was trying to map routes for mail planes to Russia. Ever adventurous, Rogers agreed — he could file his newspaper columns from Alaska by radio and telephone. On August 15, 1935, their airplane crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska, killing them both.

Wiley Post, first to fly solo around the world, in an early pressure suit for high-altitude flying - Wikimedia photo

Wiley Post, first to fly solo around the world, in an early pressure suit for high-altitude flying - Wikimedia photo

On August 15, 2008, a ceremony in Claremore, Oklahoma, will honor the two men on the 73rd anniversary of their deaths. About 50 pilots from Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas will fly in to the Claremore Airport for the Will Rogers-Wiley Post Fly-In Weekend. Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Jari Askins will offer a tribute.

Rogers was 56, leaving behind his wife, Betty, and four children. Post, 36, left a widow.

Rogers’ life is really quite legendary. Historian Joseph H. Carter summed it up:

Will Rogers was first an Indian, a cowboy then a national figure. He now is a legend.
Born in 1879 on a large ranch in the Cherokee Nation near what later would become Oologah, Oklahoma, Will Rogers was taught by a freed slave how to use a lasso as a tool to work Texas Longhorn cattle on the family ranch.
As he grew older, Will Rogers’ roping skills developed so special that he was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for throwing three lassos at once: One rope caught the running horse’s neck, the other would hoop around the rider and the third swooped up under the horse to loop all four legs.
Will Rogers’ unsurpassed lariat feats were recorded in the classic movie, “The Ropin’ Fool.”
His hard-earned skills won him jobs trick roping in wild west shows and on the vaudeville stages where, soon, he started telling small jokes.
Quickly, his wise cracks and folksy observations became more prized by audiences than his expert roping. He became recognized as being a very informed and smart philosopher–telling the truth in very simple words so that everyone could understand.
After the 10th grade, Will Rogers dropped out of school to become a cowboy in a cattle drive. He always regretted that he didn’t finish school, but he made sure that he never stopped learning–reading, thinking and talking to smart people. His hard work paid off.
Will Rogers was the star of Broadway and 71 movies of the 1920s and 1930s; a popular broadcaster; besides writing more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns and befriending Presidents, Senators and Kings.
During his lifetime, he traveled around the globe three times– meeting people, covering wars, talking about peace and learning everything possible.
He wrote six books. In fact he published more than two million words. He was the first big time radio commentator, was a guest at the White House and his opinions were sought by the leaders of the world.
Inside himself, Will Rogers remained a simple Oklahoma cowboy. “I never met a man I didn’t like,” was his credo of genuine love and respect for humanity and all people everywhere. He gave his own money to disaster victims and raised thousands for the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Post’s legacy is significant, too. His employer, Oklahoma oil man F. C. Hall, encouraged Post to push for aviation records using Hall’s Lockheed Vega, and Post was happy to comply. Before his history-making trip around the world, he had won races and navigation contests. NASA traces the development of the space-walking suits worn by astronauts to Post’s early attempts for flight records:

For Wiley Post to achieve the altitude records he sought, he needed protection. (Pressurized aircraft cabins had not yet been developed.) Post’s solution was a suit that could be pressurized by his airplane engine’s supercharger.

First attempts at building a pressure suit failed since the suit became rigid and immobile when pressurized. Post discovered he couldn’t move inside the inflated suit, much less work airplane controls. A later version succeeded with the suit constructed already in a sitting position. This allowed Post to place his hands on the airplane controls and his feet on the rudder bars. Moving his arms and legs was difficult, but not impossible. To provide visibility, a viewing port was part of the rigid helmet placed over Post’s head. The port was small, but a larger one was unnecessary because Post had only one good eye!

Last photo of Will Rogers (in the hat) and Wiley Post, in Alaska in 1935 (from Century of Flight)

Last photo of Will Rogers (in the hat) and Wiley Post, in Alaska in 1935 (from Century of Flight)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Alaska bush advocate Pamela Bumsted.

Resources:


December 17, written in the wind

December 17, 2007

Wright Bros. flyer at Kittyhawk, first flight

Photo from Treasures of the Library of Congress; “First Flight” by John T. Daniels (d. 1948); this is a modern gelatin print from the glass negative.

Ten feet in altitude, 120 feet traveled, 12 seconds long. That was the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine achieved by Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.

From the Library of Congress:

On the morning of December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took turns piloting and monitoring their flying machine in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first flight that lasted just twelve seconds. On the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur traveled 852 feet, remaining airborne for 57 seconds. That morning the brothers became the first people to demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine under the complete control of the pilot.

No lost luggage, no coffee, no tea, no meal in a basket, either.

Resources on the Wright Brothers’ first flight:


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