Aug 28, 2007

The Mother Ship

In response to some queries - here's a recent image of my "other" airplane:

It's a Zenair Zodiac CH601HDS with a CAM100 (Honda Civic auto conversion) engine. I built it myself from a kit and as soon as I finish it, I hope to get it painted. Meanwhile, it's in a "flying but still evolving" status.

Aug 24, 2007

Gone Fishing... well sort of...

It's summertime and the livin' is easy... so the blogging energy has been diverted elsewhere for a few days.

Until the estimated holding time has expired, here's a little view of my corner of the world lately.

Panorama from Horne Lake to the west - Straight of Georgia to the east:

Sorry about the camera shakes. It was a little bit turbulent and it's hard to fly and shoot video with the same hand.

Aug 17, 2007

B777 Reaching the Limits?

Within a few decades jet transport aircraft have evolved and refined. Early models like the B707 explored new dimensions of speed and altitude and despite some severe setbacks, they went on to spark a new era in world travel.

But now all the major frontiers of conventional/subsonic jet transport development have been conquered and there remains only the continual refinement as new designs apply better computer technology and aerodynamic understanding to build a more efficient version.

The Triple Seven represented Boeings big gamble at building the replacement to its own world-traversing 747. Projections told them that to stay competitive with new Airbus' that used lighter and more fuel efficient structures in their jumbos than could be re-engineered into the older 747 airframe, Boeing would have to go back to the drawing board for a successor.

Designing a new airplane is always risky business. Boeing had gambled the future of the company on the B747 - and won. Could they do it again? The financial investment required to prove another jumbo jet would once again stretch the company to its limit. Any major design shortcoming could bring the company down if the model failed. Yet, being too conservative in the design, not taking enough advantage of the current technology to make a more efficient airplane, would produce a certain failure as the new plane would not be able to compete in the marketplace.

This video of a crucial wing test, represents how carefully and successfully Boeing engineers did their work. Had the test-wing broken before the design limit, it could also have broken Boeing. But the wing proved its strength and when it finally failed it failed according to predictions, once again affirming the quality of the engineering. The best surprise is no surprise.

The successful B777 project kept Boeing competitive for another generation. With no new technologies on the horizon to again produce quantum leaps in travel efficiencies such as provided by jet engines, the way forward will continue to be one of squeezing and tweaking and refining the current vehicles to ensure nothing is wasted.

Aug 16, 2007

The Revolution Refined...

The B767 further refined the jet age revolution in two key ways. First by increasing the level of flight deck automation, and second by reducing the number of pilots needed to operate the aircraft.

The first feature was an inevitable inclusion of computer-based technology into the pilot's work space, and subsequent airliners continue in this trend. But the '67 was the first glass cockpit.

The second feature was a logical follow-on. Up until then, all wide body airplanes required three pilots and perhaps a navigator to cross the ocean. But then they also needed three or four engines. Boeing challenged this thinking, first by dropping the extra engines and then by proposing that only two pilots could safely manage this "much" airplane.

Smaller twin-engine airliners had managed to fly with just two pilots for quite a while, although some airline unions did temporarily impose a third pilot on early B737 flight decks. It must have been crowded.

The earliest B767s were delivered with a third crew-member seat and panel, but the lack of meaningful controls on this back panel spoke volumes about the necessity of the third pilot. Eventually the two-pilot "jumbo" became as accepted as the two-engine over-water operation. Increasing automation was later back-spilled to the B747, as the 400 series became a two-pilot vehicle as well. But that's another story.

Here's a short tour of the 2-crew 767 flight deck and some of the automation. (note: the screens don't really flicker like that. This is an effect caused by the interaction of a video recorder and a CRT screen.)

Aug 15, 2007

Interesting Airport Site

I discovered this site today - interesting place to scan airports:

Aug 10, 2007

B757 Getting 'er done...

Another workhorse in the Boeing fleet is the 757. Like the 737, it tends to be under-appreciated for the work it accomplishes day-in, day-out. These two airliners are a little like the yeoman players on a sports team. Like the offensive linemen who throw the blocks to spring the trophy-winning runner or protect the TD-throwing quarter-back. They just get-er-done and expect little pay or glory in return.

Here's an interesting video of a 757 just 'getting 'er done' on a windy day in Seattle last year:

Aug 9, 2007

Dream Wisely

Steven Covey calls it "making sure your ladder is leaning against the correct wall." That is, before struggling to climb the ladder of success, make sure you've got your priorities straight and that you're not wasting your life - not dreaming the wrong dream.

But what are dreams and goals worth? How much are you willing to sacrifice to accomplish them? And when you've succeeded are you sure it will have been worth it? Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, includes a little mind game where he asks his readers to imagine they are on their deathbeds and in that context to decide how they would rather spend their last few moments of life. He maintains that very few are they who will be wishing for just one last chance to fly that bigger/faster/flashier airplane (okay, that's my version of Covey's conclusion). What instead most of us will be longing for, is one last chance to spend time with some particular person who is precious to us - a mate, a child, a grandchild. Relationships are the stuff of real dreams and the subject of true QUESTS.

Nothing conveys the glorious quest so well as the song from the play The Man of La Mancha - The Impossible Dream.

As originally written Don Quixote, by his enduring, unconditional and totally irrational love, brings life-changing dignity to a woman who has had no reason in life to believe anything good of herself. In its symbolism this is the ultimate Heavenly Quest - a reflection of the power of love and in a larger sense the very Christ Story of the Christians.

The Man of La Mancha

But here we see the song stripped of it's ultimate meaning, and used (albeit, semi-humorously) to promote the "dream" of better consumer products - buy buy buy...
Honda Ad

When we lose our ability either as individuals or a society, to discern those true worth-any-cost dreams, we are in danger of propping our ladders against the wrong wall. Ask me how I know ...


After reading Aviatrix's entry today (Parallel Careers), I got to thinking about those who risk and fail, or accomplish things they hadn't originally planned on, and those who don't try at all but diverge into parallel activities.

Which led me to a few interesting videos of some who put a lot of energy into pretending to fly. Which makes me ask - Is there not an airport nearby where they could apply all that time and energy towards the real thing? The answer of course is "Yes!" -- but for some folks diverting to other aviation-related hobbies is more realistic and even fulfilling than the real thing. And don't get me wrong - I'm not demeaning, deriding or diminishing these accomplishments. These folks have worked hard and produced some wonderful gear:

But for some folks, pretending will never be enough. And those are the folks that will get one step closer to their ultimate goal. That's still no guarantee of success. Or of landing The Good Job. But it's a step.

I have worked with pilots who experienced an easy slide into an airline job, and never appreciated what they had. And it usually showed in one way or another.

My final conclusion is that the character-building that comes through perseverance is worth more than gold -- or even The Right Job.

One small caveat - ensure your "Impossible Dream" is the right dream - more on that next...

Aug 7, 2007

How Big Do You Want It? - Supersizing the Revolution

The introduction of Boeing's Jumbo 747 began yet another revolution in air travel. Now it became a mass-production game. And hand it to Boeing - they are masters at refining a design so the original B747-100 grew into the dash 400 with a fully electronic, two-pilot flight deck and stretched fuselage.

Along with the size came new hazards to other airplanes and ground crews. After a couple of nasty surprises to following aircraft, NASA began tests to see just what the wake vortices look like behind a 747, and how they affect the runway environment.

Ground hazards also increased with the advent of jumbo engines. Here's one light-hearted demonstration of a very real threat to airport staff and equipment:

But the sheer grace of this much aluminum aviating in close proximity never fails to inspire:

Through the years the fourty-seven has been adapted to many unique rolls - attesting to the basic strength and versatility of the design - such as a Space Shuttle Transporter:

And now a Wing Transporter in support of the B-787 program:

As with any design there have been some tragedies, especially as fleets age and the original safety margins erode. In this case, aging wire insulation failed, setting the stage for a horrific outcome.

Seconds From Disaster - TWA 800:

Nevertheless, just as the B-707 and 727 were the iconic airliners of their day, the mention of the word Jumbo Jet today most likely evokes images of Fat Albert - King of the Sky - the Boeing 747.

Poetry of Flight

In an earlier post I mentioned poetry and wondered what else has been written besides "High Flight."

chad said...

Richard Bach's entire novels are like one long poem about flight.

So true. Also much of Antoine De Saint Exupery's writing is in that vein. In terms of actual poetry I found this anthology of aviation-related poetry: Because I Fly. Also a long list of other poetry sources regarding flight. Here's an online digest of poems. And here's one I found that I like very much and shall copy it to my favorites' page somewhere:


I rise on wings of gossamer and dew
And soar over the earth
Flitting and flirting
With the clouds and the sun
Winging my way through the sky
Trailing a rainbow behind
Swooping down to splash through the tips of waves
Climbing to greet the stars
Swinging through rainstorms
Teasing lightening bolts down to the ground
Until my spider-silk wings run out
Drizzling dew onto the early-morning grass
And I fall back to earth
And reach to the stars
And they shine their forgiveness
And I realize that my face is wet with tears
But I do not know if they are my own
Or the stars'.

Lynette Yorgey

Aug 6, 2007

Passenger Briefing - something missing?

Aviatrix's 'over water' posting contained a link to the regulations. As I will sooner or later be crossing the Straight of Georgia and flying up the west coast of Vancouver Island in my home-built aircraft, I thought I'd go review the regs. Nothing new there... but it got me wondering if my lawn chair seat cushions will float and if they can be considered "flotation devices"... or if I should invest in something more "official."

Then I scanned down to the passenger briefing section (pasted below) -- Can you spot the important piece of safety gear in a small aircraft that is not mentioned?

Passenger Briefings

602.89 (1) The pilot-in-command of an aircraft shall ensure that all of the passengers on board the aircraft are briefed before take-off with respect to the following, where applicable:

(a) the location and means of operation of emergency and normal exits;

(b) the location and means of operation of safety belts, shoulder harnesses and restraint devices;

(c) the positioning of seats and the securing of seat backs and chair tables;

(d) the stowage of carry-on baggage;

(e) where the aircraft is unpressurized and it is possible that the flight will require the use of oxygen by the passengers, the location and means of operation of oxygen equipment; and

(f) any prohibition against smoking.

(2) The pilot-in-command of an aircraft shall ensure that all of the passengers on board the aircraft are briefed

(a) in the case of an over-water flight where the carriage of life preservers, individual flotation devices or personal flotation devices is required pursuant to section 602.62, before commencement of the over-water portion of the flight, with respect to the location and use of those items; and

(b) in the case of a pressurized aircraft that is to be operated at an altitude above FL 250, before the aircraft reaches FL 250, with respect to the location and means of operation of oxygen equipment.

(3) The pilot-in-command of an aircraft shall, before take-off, ensure that all of the passengers on board the aircraft are provided with information respecting the location and use of

(a) first aid kits and survival equipment;

(b) where the aircraft is a helicopter or a small aircraft that is an aeroplane, any ELT that is required to be carried on board pursuant to section 605.38; and

(c) any life raft that is required to be carried on board pursuant to section 602.63.

B-737 Workhorse of the Sky

Boeing's Baby Jet - the B-737 is the world's most popular airliner. What can you say about such success? The airplane has been continually upgraded to keep it competitive with the Airbus A320, and the latest models incorporate the latest and greatest flight magic.

Scanning the net for "interesting stuff" regarding the three-seven, I settled on this full episode regarding one of the few times the aircraft failed. But it is clear that this was a failure of human care and attention to proper limitations and respect for safety - not any failure in the basic aircraft design. Rather it is a tribute to the underlying strength of the aircraft.

This is the story of Aloha 243.

Aug 4, 2007

Final Approach

The things I learn while cleaning the bird cage! Apparently way back in April aviation pioneer and author Robert N. Buck passed on.

Another favourite authour I will never meet on this side of eternity is Ernie Gann.

Here is a poem I came across - in honour of these two gentlemen and others who had a tremendous impact on my aviation life and who have now gone on before:

(if anyone recognizes this poem and can supply the authour's name I'd appreciate it - thanks.)

Final Approach

All too soon the time is near
just one last turn for home,
the compass swings and plays its final part,
runway lights now beckon me,
they lead to earth
a most reluctant heart.

For one brief moment time stands still
my thoughts go back
through all the years I've flown,
to the countless faces by my side
who shared my way of life,
that earthbound man has never known.

I knew this dream wouldn't last forever
for the years have passed so swiftly by,
and now only memories remain up there,
across the endless sky.

The legacy I gladly leave
of the things I've seen and done,
for the joys of life so quickly fade
unshared with anyone.

-- authour unknown

Aug 3, 2007

Boeing 727 - continuing the revolution

Just as its big brother the 707 revolutionized long range air travel the B727 revolutionized the short to medium haul market as well, bringing many more cities into the jet age.

Things you might want to do with your B727-for-a-day:

Do some 'stunt' flying at a local airshow. By the way - this kind of low pass at an airdisplay in most countries would be illegal without special arrangements. I don't know the background of this particular fly-by, but it's impressive, if somewhat risky:

Transafrik is/was? not my airline of choice when travelling on vacation, but this operation on dirt runways says something about the durability and versatility of the B727. The narration says that during (some) war, old B727s were bought for one million dollars and paid for in a month of flying. The pilots had no time limits. The interviewee prides himself on once going three days without leaving the flight deck. The pilots got paid for flying hours and one Captain flew 300 hours in one month. Completely unimaginable in "commercial" aviation. He recalls one captain earning 20 thousand dollars in one month. Some pilots had flown in Vietnam and were "cowboys" in the airplane.

And now, the most amazing video that reveals something of the B727's amazing strength and capabilities -- IS NO LONGER on the NET? At least I can't find it. What's up with that? I know I saw it on Youtube at one time... It showed a B727 flying low and slow with the gear down, at least one (if not both) cargo doors open, and the rear airstair down. People are crammed into every nook and cranny. It's a sobering sight in view of the circumstances of the Fall of Da Nang and the surrounding story but the B727 played a key role. I see World Airways is still a going concern, which might explain it:

Anyway, here's the Wikipedia account:
On March 29, 1975, World operated the last airlift flight out of Da Nang, Vietnam, an event that made world news. Two 727s were flown to Da Nang, one of which landed with Daly aboard. Thousands rushed the airplane and it took off on a taxiway under heavy fire. The aircraft with Daly aboard started its takeoff roll with the 727's back stairs still down with Daly fending off additional people trying to leave due to over capacity. (At one time there existed a film of this taken from someone inside the aircraft) When the airplane landed at Saigon, they estimated there were over 330 people on board.

Here's an account from the New York Times:

Da Nang's Fall Feared Imminent; U.S. Ships Sent to Help Refugees
By Malcolm Brown , March 30, 1975
At the Da Nang airport yesterday, a Boeing 727, against the advice of many pilots, landed in an attempt to evacuate some civilians &emdash; to be met by about 300 South Vietnamese soldiers, armed with rifles and grenades, who forced their way aboard the big jet.

Other people, seeking to flee the beleaguered city, lay in front of and under the plane to keep it from leaving. The transport, operated by World Airways, was mobbed by soldiers as it taxied off the runway to the ramp.

At least one soldier was seen firing his pistol at the cockpit. The jet finally took off.

A big part of one wing-flap was damaged when it reached Saigon. The pilots said after reaching here that the damage had been done by a grenade. Aviation authorities, however, said it appeared that the damage was due to an obstacle in the path of the plane's wheels, not to an explosion.

To avoid destruction, the plane took off from the taxiway rather than from the runway. The pilots found the runway jammed with people.

They said they knew of no deaths resulting from this. But aviation experts here said after talking to passengers and stowaways on the plane that between 20 and 30 persons had probably been killed &emdash; some run over on take-off, some dropping away from the wheel wells and the cargo hold.

The aviation authorities said the body of one soldier had been found in a wheel well on arrival here; others on the flight said that unknown numbers of others had dropped off the plane in flight.

When the plane arrived in Saigon, the mutinous troops were put under guard.

Except for the World Airways Boeing, no aircraft were reported to have landed at Da Nang yesterday.

And an even more amazing eyewitness account:
search down the page for 727. It's more fantastic than I'd realized - which is saying something.

Aug 1, 2007

Things to do with an old DC-9

So, you say you've got your hands on an old DC-9 and were wondering what to do with it? Well, other than converting it to an RV or other live-in contraption, how about this:

The rear doorway was an "emergency only" feature on most early DC9s as a forward air-stair was also provided. This rear exit looks like a special "one off" made for skydivers. Obviously with that door opening in flight, the airplane must operate unpressurized. Someone says they are leaping out at 180 miles per hour (156 knots). I wonder if that's accurate? The Nine could probably slow down a little more for this maneuver... but maybe hitting the air at that speed is part of the thrill?

The other plane taking video is a Twin Otter. Does anyone know what the top speed of a Twin Otter is?