Monday, December 13, 2010

On a Wing and a Prayer

The body was found in the cargo hold on Flight 257. The person or persons who murdered this unfortunate soul stuffed it in the cargo hold and in such a way as to suggest that the killer or killers were quite deranged. Intrigued to say the least Homicide Detective Jack Donaldson started his investigation. Would a cheater, jilted lover, or some kind of love triangle be involved? Jack was thinking along these lines because of what he was currently going through with his ex-wife. This was a medium to large airport and cordoning off the crime scene was fairly involved but it needed to be done. When Jack woke up this morning he thought the day was going to be a good one but when he got the call about this case that good feeling completely vanished. First of all the FBI was on the scene and they were trying to take over, second, his ex-wife had just sent him a text about his alimony payment, and the third and final thing was that he hadn’t had has his cup of coffee yet. The day was just going from bad to worse. The Coroner said that from his preliminary diagnosis the victim had been dead for about 36-hours because the body was starting to come out of rigor. Detective Donaldson’s Blackberry suddenly went off. A Sergeant Davis told him that he should get over to Gate 32 on Concourse ‘C’ ASAP. Jack was at Gate 24 on Concourse ‘A’ at the moment. He got into his car and turned on his flashers. When he go to Gate 32 Sergeant Davis informed him another DB or dead body was found in another cargo hold. Like he said earlier, this day was going from bad to worse. The Press was going to have a field day with this. So far the only things that were common to both of these crimes was the fact that both airplanes were Boeing 737-800’s and both dead bodies were found in the aft cargo holds. In the 17-years that Jack has been a Homicide Detective he has seen dead bodies in quite a variety of places but this was the first time he has seen one in the cargo hold of an airliner. Now he has seen two. The aft cargo hold of a Boeing 737-800 has almost 900 square feet of space in it. Who has access to it? Would they have been seen? How would the bodies have been put in them? Questions, questions, so many questions. Jack would need to get access to any and all surveillance cameras. Just then Jack received a radio call from the Airport Manager Steve Billings telling him that the press wants a statement and what should he tell them. Jack told him to wait. As Jack started turn he felt a sharp throbbing pain at the base of his neck, he instantly knew someone had hit him from behind. He went down to the ground. When he was on the ground all he could see, just barely, before he blacked out was a figure running away from him….

Just Another Day

It’s a Thursday – September 9, 2010. I look out the window. A 20-something couple is walking down the street. A man is walking his dog. The local Fire Department horn bellows because it is 12-noon. I can hear a plane off in the distance. I can also hear someone mowing there lawn off in the distance. My wife, the woman that I love dearly, is at work. The plants have been watered. The ones under the front window are blooming nicely. A cool breeze is coming through the window. Katie is studying hard at school. I wonder if she is feeling o.k. I also wonder if Ryan and Matthew are studying hard in school. Austin is probably at work. Eric and his wife Maii are in England – he is in the Air Force. The couple who live out of their van in our neighbor Bob’s backyard are burning stuff again. It doesn’t smell toxic today. My wonderful wife Kelly just sent me a text thanking me for getting her $20 and 2-packs of cigs for cards tonight. The mail-woman just picked up and dropped off the mail. Such a busy road we live on. The traffic goes by so fast! And don’t get me going about the noisy trucks and motorcycles! A farmer just drove by with his tractor and hay baler attached. Then his son went by with a tractor and a trailer to hold the hay bales. They work 7 days-a-week on their farm. A train off in the distance just blew its horn. Fred brought Miss Ab home. Miss Ab is our Chihuahua. Fred and Barbara are Miss Ab’s grandparents (and Katie’s). Katie just got home from school. She goes to New England Tech. Miss Ab was so happy to see her ‘mommy’ and Katie was so happy to see Miss Ab. Kelly works at Regency Heights and she should be home soon. The day is flowing along, meandering. I am thinking about my writing, I am thinking about my writing because I want to be a published writer and/or author. I am 50-years old so I am starting a little late in the game. Some people would say you’re too old to do this. I would disagree. This story itself will be posted to my blog and hopefully someone will read it (and the others I have posted there) and comment on it, negatively or positively. So this is just another day, a day in a small northeastern Connecticut town. Much like many towns all across America. People just doing there normal day-to-day things. There is nothing wrong with normal. Normal isn’t boring. Normal is good. Normal is peaceful. Things don’t have to be wild and crazy or abnormal. Maybe I am na├»ve. What is the definition of normal? My definition may be different than yours. We are born, we live our lives and pay our bills, and then we die. Yesterday was Wednesday, tomorrow is Friday. What makes today any different? It’s just another day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

You are going to go far

Human beings are always going somewhere or want to go somewhere. What is on the other side of that ridge? That mountain range? We go to the store, to the movies, to the bank, to the supermarket, to the kitchen, to bed (usually on a daily basis), to the bathroom (sometimes more than once), to the moon (we haven’t been there in a while). We are even told where to go – “Go west young man!”, or “You can go to hell!” First, humans walked/hiked/trekked to explore. Then humans rode animals, and then they had carts or wagons, and then boats. We went up and down rivers, across ponds, lakes, seas, oceans. Then we wanted to copy the birds and fly, or was it more than that? To slip those surly bonds of earth as it were. Do we want and need to conquer our surroundings? our world? To show that we are the masters? We always want to get somewhere quicker or faster. When the Mayflower came across the Atlantic Ocean in 1620 it took 65-days to do it. In 1927 when Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean it took 33-1/2-hours. In 1996 a Concorde Supersonic Airliner flew across the Atlantic Ocean in under 3-hours. In 1974 (22-years earlier) a U.S. Air Force ‘spy’ plane flew across the Atlantic Ocean in under 2-hours. It used to take days, weeks, or even months for a letter to reach someone via snail mail (do people even write letters anymore?). Now with the click of a button we can send an e-mail or a tweet to anyone anywhere on or off the earth instantly. The world is shrinking. Aviation and Technology are rapidly advancing.

Speaking of aviation, I love aviation! That is an understatement! Aviation is more that just people, aircraft, technology, or history. Imagine the joy, admiration and/or fascination a young child has when they see an airplane up in the sky for the first time.

And what about Rotorcraft or Helicopters? They have been used throughout aviations short history. First to save peoples lives, then later on to be used as a weapon in war. It has also been used to save peoples lives in war.

People talk about the spinoffs from NASA, well what about the spinoffs from aviation? Have we gone far or have we advanced from the technologies derived from aviation? Yes we have. Automobiles for instance are more aerodynamic. Speaking of automobiles, here is a little side note, the SAAB automobile comes from a company that started out by making airplanes. The name SAAB means “Svenska Aeroplan AB”. “AB” is the rough equivalent of company, so SAAB literally means Swedish Airplane Company. There have been may more spinoffs from aviation, in the areas of metallurgy, composite materials, and electronics. Anti-lock brakes were first developed for aircraft back in 1929.

So, are we going to go far? Yes. We have gone far from that famous first flight on December 17, 1903 and we will keep going far.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Collaborations

Webster’s defines collaboration as: “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor”. Think of some great collaborations, Lennon and McCartney in music, Abbott and Costello in comedy. Husbands and Wives collaborate also. Sports teams couldn’t win without teamwork and collaborating with each other. Would Apple Computer be where they without Steve Jobs collaborating with someone? (another Steve, Steve Wozniak for instance). What about Microsoft? Did Bill Gates do it all by himself? Charities and grass-roots movements would not exist without collaboration. Curing diseases and inventing new technologies would not happen without collaboration. But I digress. In the relatively short history of aviation collaboration has played an integral part. Take the Wright Brothers for instance. The collaboration they had was phenomenal and has been written about extensively.

Charles Lindbergh was called the “Lone Eagle” but he did not make his historic flight in a vacuum. The “Spirit of St. Louis” airplane that he made his historic flight in was called the “Spirit of St. Louis” and it was designed by Donald Hall at Ryan Airlines and built by all of the hard work of the engineers and workers there. The engine that powered his airplane was the Wright J-5C “Whirlwind” from the Wright Aeronautical Corporation and the following were some of the people involved in creating it:
Charlie Lawrance – President (and one of the men who developed the Whirlwind engine)
Kenneth M. Lane – Chief Airplane Engineer
Richard “Dick” Blythe
Edward “Ed” Mulligan
Kenneth Boedecker
Thomas Kincaid

Not only that, but Charles Lindbergh had an organization of backers supporting his endeavor and it was called “The Spirit of St. Louis Organization”. Some of it’s members were as follows:
Harold M. Bixby
Harry H. Knight (and his father Harry F. Knight)
Major Albert Bond “Doc” Lambert
J.D. Wooster Lambert (Docs brother)
E. Lansing Ray – He ran/published the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Newspaper
Frank Robinson
William “Bill” Robinson
Earl C. Thompson

Would Neil Armstrong have been able to step off that ladder onto the moon and utter his most famous words without the collaboration of thousands of people? – Scientists, Engineers, and an untold number of workers who are just as much the heroes as Neil was. What about Jack Northrop, Bill Boeing, Chance Vought, Igor Sikorsky, Bill Piper, Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech (and his wife Olive), Clarence “Kelly” Johnson (and his Skunk Works Team at Lockheed), Donald Douglas, Glenn Martin, Leroy Grumman, Larry Bell, Glenn Curtiss, and many, many others. They didn’t all do it alone, they collaborated. With each other, with the military, with the government, with academia. Things get done when people collaborate.

Some collaborations are not always good or legal. When Julius Rosenberg (yes, that Rosenberg) and others in a spy ring gave the technology for an aircraft tracking radar (SCR-584), it’s analog computer gun director (M-9) and proximity fuse to Soviet Spy Alexandr Feklisov it gave the Russians the ability to track and destroy our fighter aircraft. The spy plane that Francis Gary Powers was flying on May 1, 1960 was tracked and shot down that way. William Perl (real name Mutterperl) who worked for the NACA (the predecessor of NASA) also gave advanced aeronautical data to Alexandr Feklisov which allowed the Russians to develop the unique tail-fin design used on the MiG-15 jet fighter. This plane was flown against American pilots during the Korean War. Aviation has had many, many collaborations, mostly for good, some not so good. But collaborations will continue.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The New England Air Museum

My wife and I recently returned from a trip to upstate New York and on our way home we stopped at the New England Air Museum. It is a gem of a museum nestled in the tranquil woodlands next to the Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Back in 1969 it was called the Bradley Air Museum, but on October 3, 1979 the museum was struck by a tornado and almost completely destroyed. The museum closed and was reopened in 1981. It was in 1984 that it became the New England Air Museum (NEAM). It is owned and operated by the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association.
The museum houses a diverse assortment of aircraft in its collection, both inside and on the grounds outside. They have both a military and civilian aircraft sections with over 125 aircraft on display. The centerpiece of the museum is the Boeing B-29 bomber ‘Jack Hack’. In addition to ‘Jack Hack’, they also have a Lockheed Electra which is similar to the one flown by Amelia Earhart in her attempt to fly around the world. Among the aircraft on the outside grounds is the Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster. Its fuselage, when seen from the side was in the shape of a wing and is one of the last one known to exist. It is anticipated that the museum will restore it at some point in time. The B-29 was also restored by the museum in their restoration hangar.
On Sundays, the museum has what they call ‘Open Cockpit Sunday’ in which patrons are allowed to actually climb into the cockpits of a variety of aircraft. This is one of the museum’s most popular events. Other events include lectures and presentations given buy people in the aviation business. Numerous educational workshops and fun activities are also scheduled throughout the year. Interactive and static displays are placed throughout the museum along with many historical artifacts. Connecticut based aviation companies such as Sikorsky, Kaman, Vought, Hamilton Standard, and Pratt & Whitney are highlighted with aircraft (fixed-wing and rotary), engines, and other various equipment. They also feature WWI and lighter-than-air craft era.
Functions such as conferences, dinners, school field trips, and birthday parties can be held at the museum. Memberships with discounted admissions and gift shop discounts are available for purchase on site, by mail, or though the internet. The gift shop also has an array of clothing, books, airplane models, games, and various other aviation themed novelties available. There is also a small dining area and free parking. They are open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. They are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Please note that if you visit in the summer months the hangar sections are not air conditioned. You can visit their website at: www.neam.org

Friday, June 4, 2010

Famous Firsts

Throughout aviation history there were famous people. The fame that they achieved was earned. There were also people that were behind the scenes. The ones that were behind the scenes were the unsung heroes. Technology with regards to aviation and aerospace has advanced at a rapid pace. The following are some examples of famous firsts.

The Wright Brothers were the first to fly a heavier-than-air airplane but they didn’t do it alone. Without the Weather Service they wouldn’t have known the location in the United States that had constant moderate to heavy winds so they could test there gliders. They corresponded with others such as Octave Chanute. Without the help of Charlie Taylor, there mechanician they wouldn’t have had an engine to power their airplane. The Wright Brothers didn’t attend an Aeronautical University because one did not exist. They built there own wind tunnel and they designed and made there own propellers. NASA tested them and they were found to be 80% efficient (today’s are only 85%). The Wright Brothers had been told that they were crazy and that man was not meant to fly but they both persisted. They did not give up.

Charles Lindbergh deserves all the fame and accolades that were bestowed upon him when he made his solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean at the age of 25. But he didn’t do it alone either. He had financial backers to fund his flight. Also, without the designers, engineers, and craftsman the airplane he flew wouldn’t exist. There were many detractors and naysayers. But he was a persistent man. He was told that he needed a multi-engine plane and he said that wasn’t necessary

Chuck Yeager was the first man to break the sound barrier. He was 24-years old at the time. He would not have been able to do so without the people from NACA (the precursor to NASA), or the U.S. Air Force. The Bell X-1 which he flew wouldn’t exist without the designers, engineers, craftsman, and technicians at Bell Aircraft. Hundreds of people were behind his endeavor. The aircraft was shaped like a .50 caliber bullet and was built exceptionally strong. People at the time were saying that the sound barrier was a physical barrier that could not be broken, and even if it was it would lead to the destruction of the aircraft and fatality for the pilot.

Neil Armstrong was the first man to step onto the moon. Without thousands and thousands of people in NASA (scientists and engineers) and all of the contractors and sub-contractors that built all of the hardware (Saturn V rocket, Lunar Module, Command Module, etc., etc.) he would not have been able to make that most famous of steps. We also cannot forget the Mercury Program with the famous original seven astronauts. Then there was the Gemini Program that had two astronauts in a capsule. Then the Apollo Program with three astronauts on each flight. Even with the horrific fatal fire in 1967 of Apollo 1 on the launch pad with the loss of the three astronauts (Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee) the program went forward.

The events that these individuals were involved in that changed aviation history and world history came down to the following famous dates:

Thursday December 17, 1903 at 10:35am for the Wright Brothers.

Saturday and Sunday May 20-21, 1927 for Charles Lindbergh.

Tuesday October 14, 1947 for Chuck Yeager.

Sunday July 20, 1969 at 10:56:15pm EDT for Neil Armstrong.

After each of the above pivotal events in aviation and space there were many, many technological advances and discoveries. After the Wright Brothers made there famous flight in 1903 many other aviation inventors and pioneers from around the world created, discovered and made great strides in aviation. By the way, the speed of the Wright Flyer on that historic flight was 6.8 miles per hour. The same goes for innovations and technological breakthroughs during and after World War I. After Charles Lindbergh made his solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1927 in 33-1/2 hours, time and distance became shorter and shorter and the world started to become a much smaller place. During and after World War II more and more technological achievements were made. After the sound barrier was broken in 1947 faster and faster aircraft (military and civilian) were created.

And here are two examples of that:

On September 1, 1974 a U.S. Air Force SR-71 “Blackbird” spy plane flew from New York to London in 1-hour, 54-minutes, 56.4-seconds.

On February 7, 1996 a supersonic transport (SST) called Concorde and flown by the British Airways airline, crossed the Atlantic Ocean from London to New York in the record time of 2-hours, 52-minutes, 59-seconds.

And the technology spinoffs from the space program are almost too many to count. The drive to discover, create, innovate and succeed is awe inspiring. These famous firsts will not be forgotten and I am sure there will be many more famous firsts to come in aviation and aerospace.