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 I suppose that you could say that I am a seasoned transatlantic traveller. Over the years, I have tried many routes to and fro, (out of Philadelphia, Chicago, Newark, Columbus, New York, Toronto, Boston, etc) usually involving Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester at the U.K. ‘end’ of things. You might expect that, given my involvement with aviation, I would be a little blasé about the whole business. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am still passionate about every aspect of flying, and fully intend to remain so!

In the summer of 2009, American Airlines began to offer a daily JFK to Manchester, U.K. service using some of their Boeing 757-200 fleet, which had been configured into a mixed class arrangement (16 ‘lie-flat’  business class, 166 economy).  Since Manchester is only 45 minutes away from the area where some of my family live, this is as good a destination as any, particularly when you consider the difficulties of making a swift ‘get-away’ from Heathrow!

That year I had to make a rather sad trip, at short notice, due to not one but two bereavements. Consequently, I spent only five days in Britain, and devoted as much time as I could to family matters.

Here we are, headed back to New York, on board flight AA211. Cruising at around flight level 320, you can see the continuous cloud sheet, far below us. This is a good example of the complex wing structure of a modern airliner. The blended winglet (tastefully adorned with the AA logo, as part of the ‘Oneworld Alliance’ of airlines) considerably reduces the drag caused by wingtip vortices, and thereby decreases fuel consumption.  Looking towards the leading edge of the wing, you can just make out the small vortex generators. Wait a minute, didn’t I just say that vortices were bad? They are, in the wrong place! Small leading edge vortex generators modify the ‘boundary layer’ of air flowing immediately next to the wing, making it ‘cling’ to the surface better, and improve the effectiveness of trailing edge controls as well as lowering the stalling speed of the aircraft (amongst other things). Behind the trailing edge of the wing  you can see the flap-track covers. These cover the mechanisms for extending and retracting the flaps, it is true, but they also serve another vital function.

Most airliners cruise in the subsonic range between Mach 0.8 and Mach 0.85; at these speeds it is better if the airframe obeys the ‘Area Rule’, where there is a smooth change of cross-sectional area along the length of the airframe. This was devised by a brilliant American engineer, Richard T Whitcomb. You can see this, in a rather exaggerated form, by looking at fuselage of the original Convair YF-102 fighter, with its cylindrical shape, and the production F-102A. The Area Rule when applied to the rather disappointing prototype YF-102 caused an increase in top speed of 25%. Similarly, if anti-shock bodies, like the flap-track fairings, are placed behind the wing, they also act to reduce drag and decrease fuel consumption. These fairings serve the same function as, and are similar to, those bodies known as ’Küchemann Carrots’, after the superb engineer Dr Dietrich Küchemann, the author of  the classic work ‘Aerodynamics of Propulsion’, who drew up the design rule for these bodies.

Oh, and the flight? Smooth as you could wish for……………

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Comment Preferences

  •  welcome home. n/t (8+ / 0-)

    "Don't Bet Against Us" - President Barack Obama

    by MRA NY on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 04:13:38 PM PST

  •  For a flyer. (6+ / 0-)

    Home is where the prop stops spinning.

    In all of the world's problems religion has never been the solution

    by Tailgunner30uk on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 04:27:30 PM PST

  •  Having recently flown AA (8+ / 0-)

    I can say that much depends on the pilot as to the comfort level of this passenger. On the way to Toronto I was able to sleep for most of the flight as it was very smooth. On the way back, OTOH, the pilot either wouldn't or couldn't get above/below the turbulence, making for a very uncomfortable flight for this white-knuckle flier.

    When my family went to the UK, we flew Air Canada and were impressed with their service. We flew Seattle -> Toronto -> Heathrow and Heathrow -> Vancouver -> Seattle (in a little prop job). Next time we are thinking of flying into Manchester or Glasgow as we're told they are less expensive.

    You'd think that I, with an airplane mechanic for a Grandfather, would be a very relaxed flier. But, no....

    Thank your stars you're not that way/Turn your back and walk away/Don't even pause and ask them why/Turn around and say 'goodbye'/Just wish them well.....

    by Purple Priestess on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 04:27:44 PM PST

  •  There is only one best seat in the house (11+ / 0-)

    in an airplane.  These are some random cockpit views during transatlantic flights.  Seems to be dusty in here. I think I have something in my eye.  John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was right.

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 04:29:40 PM PST

  •  From here in MN... (13+ / 0-)

    ... I've found an ideal route for reducing jetlag is to use IcelandAir - they have an "interesting" schedule, with all their transatlantic routes involving a stopover at Reykjavik. One half of the day, half their fleet heads off to US destinations, then returns with sufficient time for travelers on those return flights to catch the departure of the other half of their fleet to European airports, which then of course return to Iceland in time to deliver their European passengers to their connecting flights to the US.

    What this actually means for a traveler, is that because of the timing of the flights, the couple of hours spent at Reykjavik will always be at a time of day where it helps your body clock reset, whichever direction you might be traveling.

    Since my most common destinations in Europe are either the UK or France, dropping into LGW or CDG works out pretty well :)

  •  Ahh, this explains… (9+ / 0-)

    why you didn't comment on my Staggerwing post on Ojibwa's biplane diary. Not that I'm so vain to think my every offering is worthy of note, but you've been pretty faithful in engaging me regularly.

    To further entice you to engagement, I'm going to point you (and other faithful readers) to an essay I wrote of my first transatlantic crossing. I was in the jumpseat (as part of our FAM trip program) which allows a more interesting perspective of the trip than sitting in the cheap seats.

    Anyway, I give you my I did the same thing as Charles Lindbergh story.

    Incidentally, I flew into both Manchester and Heathrow in the two trips I took to the UK ('90 & '92, both out of O'Hare). DC-10 on three of them, 767 on the fourth. Got about an hour in the left seat on the '76 out over the pond, courtesy of the captain.

    Oh, and welcome back.

    •  Dear Rod, sorry I didn't catch.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ....the Staggerwing comment! I am juggling MANY aviation 'balls' at the moment (especially concerned with an aviation charity in London - hoping to build a Mosquito). Had a VERY interesting meeting at CAA House, Gatwick with the Safety Regulation Group!

      Loved the Lindberg story - yes, you experienced the 'simmer dim' as its pronounced in the Shetlands off Scotland's north coast, where the sun briefly dips below the horizon, then reappears a short time later!

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 06:33:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Should you want to see the Staggerwing (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        story, do you want me to link to it, or can you find it on your own?

        •  A link would be much appreciated, please! n/t (0+ / 0-)

          'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

          by shortfinals on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 03:44:38 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  VERY nice tale about a lovely D17S ! (0+ / 0-)

          It was built in 1944 for the USN as a UC-43B, but was transfered to the Royal Navy under Lend-Lease as 'FT475'. Used on communications work, sometimes in Scotland (!)

          After WW2, back to the USN as BuNo 32874, then civilian idents of NC1193V and N1193V. Eventually to IWM Duxford where it flew in an all yellow scheme as G-BRVE. Now registered to a Jersey company called Patina Ltd (I dare say for tax purposes)

          'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

          by shortfinals on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 08:36:45 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Gosh, I hate to write this… (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            …as ordinarily, I would defer to you on many things historical, but that information doesn't jibe with my understanding of it. According to Bernie Yocke (my friend in Illinois), who restored the a/c, it was built in '36 as a civilian model. Here's a quote by him from that rcuniverse site:

            The plane you originally pictured was my personal airplane. It was built in June of 1936 as a civillian D-17S, had a 3 digit serial number (147) as opposed to the 4 digit serial numbers (ie 6897) which I also owned and it built in 1942. A minor difference in the civilian vs military D-17S was the side windows which were 1" narrower on the civilian models, not readilly discernable. Basically, there are not enough people out there to really know the details and differences of the Staggerwing, so most of the "critics" are just that.
            The tenor of the thread was in regard to building scale models. Bernie jumped in because of the picture of his airplane. My understanding from other sources was that NC18028 was her original registry, although that doesn't rule out interim registries.

            I'm no longer in contact with Bernie, or I'd see if he could clarify some of that middle history. I will say that, from knowing him, I have every bit as much confidence in the accuracy of the material he posted as I generally do in yours. I'm prepared to embrace better information as it appears, however. By the way, that all yellow scheme was how Bernie painted it. He described the colors elsewhere in the thread from which the above quote was extracted. That's how it looked when we went to lunch in Wisconsin, and it appears not to have changed since then.

            •  I INSTANTLY defer to Bernie and yourself.. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              ....I was culling data from (amongst others) the UK's CAA, and obviously, they are less likely to have the data straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak...

              Could you please ask Bernie, if the aircraft was even impressed by the military, at any stage of WW2? I would be interested to find our where other holes are!


              'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

              by shortfinals on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:09:01 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well, only to me from the standpoint (0+ / 0-)

                of the hour I spent in the cockpit, although I spent a fair amount of time around her for a couple of years during the restoration. When I met Bernie, most of the airframe work—both steel and wood—was completed and the hull (and wings) were in his garage at the house in which he then lived (we'll call it House B for this narrative). If I recall correctly, he actually assembled the wings onto the fuselage while in House B and weighed the a/c there.

                All of this occurred while he was still a practicing dentist, and I even went to him once as a patient in order to support a friend. He had moved to town after his divorce from his home (House A) at a relatively well known aero community nearby, called Naperville Aero (LL10 is the identifier and it's the home of the Lima Limas aerobatic team, and the reason they're so named).

                I'm utterly baffled at this remove of 25 years as to when he opened the shop at C48, but I'm pretty sure he completed the airframe work there and I think that's where I delivered the knob for the fuel selector handle. During a two or three year period, we spent a lot of time together, as we had several mutual interests—aviation, woodworking, ham radio, R/C modeling, etc. I visited his shop often, and we met for lunch often, as well.

                At some point, he sold House B and moved south of Sandwich (I'm tempted to say the vicinity of Millbrook, but again, with the memory—plus, I was probably only at that house twice). In my research, I've found he's moved again, and whether this is House C or beyond, I don't know, since we've not been in touch, probably since the mid '90s. I'm a hard person to have for a friend, and although we relocated roughly in that time frame, it might have been time, anyway, for our relationship.

                I'm, at best, a tertiary source on this airplane. Bernie, is probably a secondary source, and I would presume whatever Beech and/or CAA/FAA records are extant would be primary. But, knowing how meticulous he was in this restoration and others (this was not his only Staggerwing and he became an authority on it among other enthusiasts). He also built a Glasair at the Sandwich shop and we had many conversations over the care and attention to detail each of the projects required.

                I must also note that I don't know if he ever related to me all the history of the a/c other than what I've echoed so far. The earliest knowledge I have of it is that he bought it as a basket case and it was delivered to House B on a trailer. There could very well be missing N numbers from the story.

                I noticed something interesting a little earlier—I was going over some pictures, and NC18028 (hulll #147) is absolutely the one I rode in. And it did go to the UK in ≈1990, however, I saw a couple of pictures of G-BVRE and they indicated a hull # of 6107. I don't believe that's the same airplane, similar paint scheme notwithstanding.

                I have started to reach out to contact Bernie, although I was shocked to realize as I looked at certain sources that he turned 80 a couple of years ago. He was always a sharp guy, but one never knows…

                In any event, I noticed that G-BVRE has a throw-over wheel. The very first question I'm going to ask Bernie is if 18028 had a throw-over. I just cannot remember, and I've not yet found any interior pictures of '028.

  •  Nothing beats a "Freedom Bird" (6+ / 0-)

    Hobbs: "How come we play war and not peace?" Calvin: "Too few role models."

    by BOHICA on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 05:12:00 PM PST

  •  I remember looking down on the mountains (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, shortfinals, KenBee

    of Greenland as we flew over them on the way from Vancouver to Gattwick in 1980. Spectacular ! It was a gorgeous day and the snow twinkled. Ellis, a friend I was travelling with, and I spent some time deciding which slope we wanted to ski down :)

    I'm very sorry for your losses, knowing they were some time ago, but painful still.


    Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.

    by Chacounne on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 05:26:28 PM PST

  •  Next time I fly, (4+ / 0-)

    will you come with me and narrate?

    I came for the politics and stayed for the science.

    by bwren on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 05:45:54 PM PST

  •  My first trans-Atlantic trip (8+ / 0-)

    was on a military transport in 1956. 4 props, I think, and bucket seats. We got box lunches - ham sandwiches and packs of Pall Mall cigarettes. We gave the cigs to our dad.

    Started in New Jersey. First stop, Newfoundland. Next stop, Iceland. Third stop, somewhere in Scotland, where we changed planes. The second plane didn't have seats. We sat on benches. Last stop, somewhere in England.

    I was 7. It was heaven.


    I came for the politics and stayed for the science.

    by bwren on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 05:55:32 PM PST

  •  As long as the wings stay attached to the plane, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shortfinals, KenBee, eztempo

    I don't care about the rest of it.

    My first flight was Newark-Gatwick, back in the day when Newark had one terminal and you walked out of the waiting room on to the tarmac and climbed stairs to the plane.  And we dressed up to fly - with hats and gloves!  

    My flights have ranged the gamut from super smooth to so rough even the cabin crew stayed seated and belted.  One of the worst was Orlando-Newark, thunderstorms all the way, in a DC10 - one week after the cargo doors had fallen off the DC10 in France (March 1979). That was enjoyable. :(

    If I can, I fly first or business class - just makes the whole thing easier.  Cattle class exacerbates my jet lag and I am a miserable person with jet lag.    

    "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

    by Most Awesome Nana on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 06:21:14 PM PST

    •  You were flying JUST a few days before I was! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Most Awesome Nana, KenBee

      - Gatwick-Newark. Actually, the problem with the DC-10 out of Paris - Turkish Airlines Flight 981 was tragic (and simple). The person on the ramp who was assigned to close AND LOCK the door to the cargo hold was Moroccan. He had almost NO command of the Turkish and English languages in which the instruction notice was printed! What happened? He CLOSED but did not satisfactorily LOCK the access door. (Which was also found, subsequently to have been modified illegally to make it easier to close)

      Consequently, the door failed during climb-out, and in doing so, impacted the control runs to the rudder and elevators.


      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 07:05:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  At the time of my flight, no one was sure what (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shortfinals, KenBee, freshwater dan

        had caused the door to fail (we didn't do instant communication in those days).  Had I known it was a DC10 before going to the airport, I would have changed my flight.

        Did you ever fly out of the old Orlando airport?  You couldn't see what plane you were on before going to the entry ramp (in those day, we ordinary flyers didn't pay attention to what type of plane we were booking), so I went through the door, turned, realized it was a DC 10 and almost turned around and walked off.  Unfortunately, I was accompanying my father's coffin and my mother would never have forgiven me for abandoning him.  

        And the flight was so rough, the crew didn't even serve drinks (lord knows I needed one).  The kid behind me must have thrown up 10 times.

        All together a terrible flight.

        "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

        by Most Awesome Nana on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 07:33:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Lost of good aviation diaries up tonight sf. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, shortfinals, KenBee

         We've got the Tweet, the Komet and the Bus.

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 06:53:23 PM PST

  •  I love flying (4+ / 0-)

    Always have. If I sit by the window my face is glued to it the whole flight. I sit there with a road atlas and follow thw roads. Ive made it from one side of the couontry to the other and knew where I was the whole time (this was before seatback maps with flying little airplanes)
    I still like flying but its the airport business thats a hassle nowadays--the searches, the security----it feels so much more like a cattle truck nowadays. The seats are smaller, the food is expensive bus station  the help is indifferent. There's nothing like personal service any more.
    So the whole experience is more of a hassle than usetabe.
    But I'm still amazed at how relatively inexpensive its become
    My first flight was probably on a 707 and i put a lot of miles on them. My first flight was to Atlanta from SF in the Army, going to Jump school in Ft Benning GA, 1966.
    That was the place where the Army did me the most good---got me off the block and into airports and airplanes going places. By the time I turned 21 I'd been to 3 continents and a major isthmus.
    I liked it and there hasn't been a year since when I didn't get  in an airplane and go somewhere. Europe, North, South and Central America, Asia, Pacific. Many states in the USA.
    just bought my tickets to Chile  for the 5th time in MArch. I have family there. 4.5 hrs to Atlanta (from Portland) 9 hrs to Santiago. Its at night from Atlanta to Santiago, getting there 8:30 AM.
    I really like Valparaiso, gonna hang out there some more.
    A fabulous place if you like art, views and terrific restaurants


    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 07:40:55 PM PST

  •  Strange Feature of Aerodynamics (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, shortfinals
    "...The blended winglet (tastefully adorned with the AA logo, as part of the ‘Oneworld Alliance’ of airlines) considerably reduces the drag caused by wingtip vortices, and thereby decreases fuel consumption.  Looking towards the leading edge of the wing, you can just make out the small vortex generators. Wait a minute, didn’t I just say that vortices were bad? They are, in the wrong place! Small leading edge vortex generators modify the ‘boundary layer’ of air flowing immediately next to the wing, making it ‘cling’ to the surface better, and improve the effectiveness of trailing edge controls as well as lowering the stalling speed of the aircraft (amongst other things)..."
    One of the strangest things one learns in fluid mechanics class is that without friction, we wouldn't have lift.  Friction is necessary to establish the circulation around the airfoil, which enables us to generate lift.  Of course, friction is also the bane of aerodynamics because of the drag it generates.  Sometimes, mankind just needs to accept both the good and the bad nature hands us.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 09:27:03 PM PST

  •  Wow trans Atlantic on a 757? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, shortfinals

    Didn't realize they had the range.

    I used to love to listen to the ATC channel on United flights.  At least some sort of in-flight narration, and a bit of a check on location.  You'd hear the handoffs from region to region and have a general idea of location.  I certainly heard a lot of pilots asking for turbulence reports and trying to get better altitudes for less bumpy rides.

    One time there was a controller racking and stacking them up for O'Hare wouldn't let anyone into his que that couldn't maintain Mach .75 or so.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 09:46:01 PM PST

  •  Thanks for the vortices explanation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've often wondered about those vortex generators and flap-track covers, looking out the window.  I guess I'd always thought they were necessary compromises with the mechanics of strong-enough flaps, in the case of the flap-track covers, and with post-production modifications in the case of vortex generators.  I wouldn't have guessed that they were planned & designed "features" of the airfoil.

    Keep up the informative diaries!

    •  They are not REAL 'carrots'... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

         the BEST example of these were on the Convair 990 airliner, and the Handley Page Victor K.2 tanker, but they DO have some of the same attributes!

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:14:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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