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Tue May 19, 2015 at 12:52 PM PDT

The Viking Mars Mission

by Lenny Flank

Reposted from History for Kossacks by Lenny Flank

In October 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik. Over the next 20 years, the Space Race saw the USSR and the USA compete in a series of space spectaculars as each tried to show off their economic and technological superiority. But during this time, there was also some excellent science being done, which got far fewer headlines. One of the most successful of these was the Viking program to study the planet Mars.

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Thu May 14, 2015 at 05:39 PM PDT

Inside the Cockpit

by xaxnar

 ...Is a fascinating article in the NY Times today.

Mark Vanhoenacker is a senior first officer for British Airways on the Boeing 747-400 fleet and the author of “Skyfaring: A Journey With a Pilot.” This essay was adapted from the author’s book.
     There's some nice multi-media effects and explanations of what kind of things pilots encounter, set against the backdrop of flight from England to Japan. For example, airspace is divided up into great big blocks for traffic control and routing purposes. Inside those blocks are waypoints, navigation checkpoints which are given 5 letter names that are distinctive - and occasionally meaningful.
It’s America’s sky-mappers who have gone to the greatest lengths to localize its skies. Near Kansas City are BARBQ, SPICY, SMOKE, RIBBS, and BRSKT. Near Detroit is PISTN; also MOTWN and WONDR (Stevie, Michigan-born).

Boston has etched a particularly rich constellation onto the heavens above New England. There is PLGRM, of course; CHWDH, LBSTA and CLAWW; GLOWB and HRALD for the city’s newspapers; while SSOXS, FENWY, BAWLL and OUTTT trace the fortunes of the city’s baseball team in long arcs across the stars. There’s a NIMOY waypoint; Leonard was born in Boston.

     The whole thing is an engrossing read - enjoy!
The only course open to us now is to make an assault by fire on the barbarians under cover of night.

Sun Tzu
One byproduct of warfare, horrible as it may be, is that technology tends to make rapid advances. Wartime necessity drives innovation and governments are willing to pour money into any idea that might just give them an edge over the enemy.

That was certainly the case during the Second World War. We went from the last of the biplanes to the first jets in roughly a five year span. Electronics made similar leaps and bounds.

The problem is as old as warfare itself. How do you find the enemy, preferably without being found yourself?

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Mon May 11, 2015 at 08:23 PM PDT

Why Fly?

by xaxnar

       Why do people fly? Is it simply about getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible? For many, that is all flying comes down to: the destination is the reward, not the journey. (And on too many airlines these days, the journey is an ordeal to be gotten over with as quickly as possible.) Few have the time, money, or skill to become pilots, to take up flying for the sheer pleasure of it.

        But, every so often we get a glimpse that shows flying can be an end in itself, an experience that enriches the soul and feeds the mind. Over at the BBC in the Travel section, Jeff Greenwald relates his experiences flying cross country in a two-seater way-open cockpit AirCam - and has some absolutely stunning photos to go with the story. (And who knew multi-engine planes came in a package like that!)

        Go take a look. It's the kind of flying experience most people don't even know exists - more's the pity.


If you were offered a ride in an AirCam or equivalent....

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Fri May 08, 2015 at 02:35 PM PDT

Air-Minded: Dragons & Bolos

by pwoodford

A friend visited the Pima Air & Space Museum (PASM) in Tucson a few weeks ago. I told her if any particular airplane spoke to her, I'd write an air-minded post on it. Well, you never know what's going to catch someone's eye. In her case, it was one of our orphans, a Douglas B-23 Dragon.

Douglas B-23 Dragon, Pima Air & Space Museum (photo: Paul Woodford)
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Reposted from History for Kossacks by Lenny Flank

It was a one-of-a-kind event: in 1972, during a mission on the Skylab space station, a group of American astronauts, frustrated by an unreasonable work schedule, organized their own version of a sit-down strike in space. They won all their demands, but in the end, NASA had its final revenge.

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Thu Apr 30, 2015 at 07:18 AM PDT

Air-Minded: Planes of Fame Photoblog

by pwoodford

During a recent motorcycle trip, I visited the Planes of Fame Museum in Valle, Arizona. The main Planes of Fame Museum is located in Chino, California; the Arizona adjunct is what I would describe as an overflow facility. It's off the beaten track, located halfway up the lonely road between Williams, Arizona and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

This was the first of what I hope will be many cook's tours of air museums in adjacent cities and states. When I told the folks at the desk I was a volunteer docent at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, they gave me the run of the place.

What I loved about this small museum, which houses just 40 or so aircraft, is that it's a working aircraft maintenance facility, not just a museum. Many of the aircraft on display are not just in flying condition but are actually flown. Several aircraft were being worked on in the main hangar while I was there, and outside, another group of mechanics was busy putting a Lockheed Constellation, once General Douglas MacArthur's VIP transport, back into airworthy condition for a one-time flight to the National Air & Space Museum in Washington DC. It was great to be able to amble around a working hangar, not a mere collection of static please-do-not-touch exhibits.

Photos below the orange squiggle ...

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Reposted from History for Kossacks by Lenny Flank

Most Americans assume that Sally Ride, who flew on the Space Shuttle in 1983, was the first woman in space. But in reality, the first women had flown in orbit almost 20 years before--and she was a Soviet.

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I struggled to come up with a decent title for this one.

This is about the planes that were overshadowed by their more glamorous counterparts. Everybody loves Mustangs, Spitfires and Hellcats. I want to shed some love on their more dowdy cousins. The ones that did the work but never got the publicity.

So what criteria did I use? To be included the aircraft had to meet at least one of these criteria:

1. It had to have been mass produced. There are plenty of one-offs and oddballs amongst WWII aircraft but those probably merit their own diary.

2. It did the same mission as a better known aircraft or has been unfairly maligned by history.

3. It was arbitrarily chosen by the author. That's why.

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Wed Apr 15, 2015 at 12:00 PM PDT

Icons of Aviation: Fokker D7

by Lenny Flank

In April 1918, just six months before the end of the First World War, Germany introduced what would be the best fighter plane of the war. Although it came too late to prevent Germany's defeat, the Fokker D7 was test-flown by top ace Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron himself, and at the end of the war became the subject of its own special provision in the peace treaty.

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Mon Apr 06, 2015 at 08:46 AM PDT

Stars who served

by Major Kong

I had a request to do a diary about entertainers who served in the military. Turns out it wasn't as easy as I thought.

This is in no way a comprehensive list. There were just too many to work with. The ones I've decided to go with were either the most notable or the most surprising. The ones that make you scratch your head and go "Him? Really?"

I've left out those who served only as an entertainer. Not that it wasn't important but I'd have to list just about every actor and musician of the day.

Some you probably knew about already but others might come as a surprise.

Where possible I've posted a picture in uniform but there are a few where I just couldn't find one.

In the course of putting this together I noticed some parallels.

Many joined the military right after Pearl Harbor. Others enlisted as soon as they came of age to do so. Many actively sought combat even when offered less hazardous postings. Several were wounded in action. Quite a few suffered from some form of Post Traumatic Stress for years after.

I figure enough of them served as aviators that this counts as an aviation diary.

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Thu Apr 02, 2015 at 12:00 PM PDT

The Lafayette Escadrille

by Lenny Flank

When the First World War broke out in August 1914, the United States declared its neutrality. But from the time the war had started, there were already Americans fighting in France--volunteers who went to Europe to fight German militarism. And one group of American volunteers would form one of the most famous fighting units of the First World War--the Lafayette Escadrille.

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