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:


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.


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?

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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.


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


Definition of “urbanization”: Glowing Cities Under a Nighttime Sky on Flickr – Photo Sharing

October 2, 2009

Pleasant to watch, this time-lapse composition highlights the light pollution aspect of increasing urbanization across the United States.  The photographer, a Dutch architect, notes that each streak of light represents a city, as he flies across the American Midwest to touchdown in San Francisco (SFO).  It’s a visual definition of urbanization, isn’t it?

On my night time flight back to SF from Amsterdam, I noticed that the lights from cities were making the clouds glow. Really spectacular and ethereal – it was really seeing the impact of urban environments from a different perspective. Each glow or squiggle represents one town or city!

Luckily the flight was half empty, so I was able to set up an improvised stabilizer mound made up of my bags, pillows, and blankets for my camera to sit on.

We were around the midwest at the beginning of the clip, and there were fewer cities once we hit the rockies. the bridge at the end is the san mateo bridge.

Technique: 1600iso; beginning – 1 (30sec) exposure / 45secs; end – 1 (4sec) exposure / 10 secs; total elapsed time: around 3 hours?

Equipment used: Nikon D300 (interval shooting mode), Tokina 12-24mm.

Music: Bloc Party – Signs

Stunning, beautiful and troubling at the same time.

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more about “Definition of “urbanization”: Glowin…“, posted with vodpod

Can you use this in your classroom?

Tip of the old scrub brush to One Man’s Blog.

Share the light with your friends:

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Our nation’s first man in space

July 20, 2009

Our first man in space got there by a route most people can’t guess:  Balloon.

Joe Kittinger recounted his adventures to the CBS Morning Show, how he leaped from a balloon at the edge of space for the Air Force, to prove that humans could survive a fall from such distances, in the event of an emergency that required an astronaut to bail out.

Kittinger bailed out of the balloon at over 102,000 feet, nearly three times the height of Mt. Everest into the atmosphere.

But Elton John never wrote a song about “Balloon Man.”


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