Friday, January 31, 2014

When Handed Snow, Make Snow-Creme

Photo credit EAA

OK, so pretty much everyone is talking about winter weather this year.  As long as you're not a snowbird, the season has affected you.  Heck, who hasn't heard about "the inch that changed Atlanta"?  Nobody's safe. I even saw a picture of ice on the beach in Florida.  Oh the humanity!
Myself, I've always liked snow.  Give me a winter with the ground covered in white and I can handle it. Most people though seem to feel otherwise.  But why fight it?  Why not make the most of it?  February 8th, 2014 will be your chance.
On that date, the skiplane fly-in at Pioneer Airport is set to go.  43 planes are already registered so it could be lots-o-fun.  I've also noticed there's no shortage of photos online of planes with skiis fitted?  Therefore it seems many of you have at least dipped your toes; why not jump in?  If you think you might, keep reading.
According to the EAA website, "Pilots who wish to participate still have time to register, but must receive approval and flight briefings from EAA prior to landing at Pioneer Airport".  If that seems like a roadblock, don't let it be.  It's actually a very simple process and all you need to do is click here.  The contact information you need is at the bottom or you can click here to email Olivia Rasmus, who can help you register.
Bonus points go to "antiquers" who show up in any open cockpit older than 1945, on skiis of course. Do so, send us some photos for proof, and we'll make you the NORDO News Hero of the Month.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Air Force Loses a Wing?

Groups like the CAF always have trouble keeping it together.  Mix people who are passionate about things with those who are passionate about themselves and nothing is going to stay bolted for long.  The question here is, which group is which?
I'd love to hear what you think about it.  If in this case the issue follows the strict rules of "how to screw up a good thing with non-profits", you can guarantee someone up top is playing dictator. But, you never know.  Every group has good people and bad.  For now though, here's a copy of the first public shot in what will likely become another legendary, although little publicized, battle among "The Colonels".
Oh wait, there's one other thing.  Without passing judgement on either side, I think I have a solution to all the petty issues that have always plagued the organization; it's the flight suits; get rid of them.  Make it a mandatory CAF court marshal for anyone who is caught wearing anything other than cutoff cargo pants and a Hawaiian shirt. Then get rid of the "Colonel" titles.  Instead let's go with the name of any drink other than something that starts with "Captain" or "virgin". From what I've seen "Shirley Temple, Death in the Afternoon, Porchcrawler, The Royal Arrival, Flaming Volcano, Zombie, El Toro Loco, Kamikaze, Bellini, Pink Squirrel, Redheaded Slut, and water would all be acceptable.
Think how much harder it would be for someone to be a jerk with these lines in the bylaws. The snobs would never lower themselves to such blue collar fun and the uptights would be too uptight for them. Left standing would be the people who've done all the work through the years anyway.  
I almost forgot; here's what started all of this:

January 24, 2014
To:  Commemorative Air Force Headquarters
        General Staff
        Keith Lawrence, Vice President of Administration
        Floyd Houdyshell, Secretary/Treasurer
From:  Diane Fenner
            New Mexico Wing
            1318 N. Dal Paso
            Hobbs, New Mexico, 88240

We, the members of the New Mexico Wing, are closing our doors.   This is a sad day for the first CAF Wing outside of Harlingen, formed in the early 1970’s.   The idea a “Wings” was the brain child of Col. Hal Fenner with the idea that the CAF will thrive long into the future if members can work and restore aircraft close to where they live, thus bringing the passion for the CAF mission close to home and firmly into many lives.   From the first Wing located in Hobbs, New Mexico, the idea spread across the United States and around the world.   The concept is why the CAF is still here today.

A thousand words can be said for why we are no more, but it really boils down to one action taken by the current regime, and that was kicking our duly elected general staff members, Floyd Houdashell and Graham Robertson, off the general staff for casting 2 descending votes in a staff decision.

The members of the southeastern New Mexico, and across the country who were “in the know” of this action were shocked, disgusted, and in total dismay of the fundamental message this action conveyed.  The flowery words and the propaganda put forth to justify it were meaningless and did not fly.  We are an organization that honors the principles and values for which our country fought WWII to protect, yet our own organization has adopted the mindset and the practices of the other side of WWII.

This action, followed by the hideous treatment of the CAF’s shining star, our world class, accredited, Smithsonian-equal Museum, rendered to a shell of a building full of artifacts for profit by removing its founder, its board, its employees, and all who viewed the museum with the honor it deserved.  Members simply doing their jobs, kicked out for life by means of a bogus lawsuit and intimidation.  

These actions made it impossible to recruit new members without lying about what the organization now really is.  It absolutely killed the esprit de corps of the membership which is vital for survival. 

“The CAF values the lessons of WWII” No, our actions do not demonstrate democracy, freedom of speech or the basic concepts of our own country’s Constitution.  We are governed by fear of repercussions if one speaks out.  Fear of what will happen to our aircraft or our Wing.

“The CAF values its members”   No, we elect general staff members who represent our views and then get kicked out of the organization for simply doing their job.
“The CAF values its employees”   No, only if you are a quiet puppet will you survive, with over 20 good people making their exit over the last 6 years, for very good reasons which the general staff refuse to explore, ask, or care.

Our current members refuse to send a dime to headquarters; will not pay their dues, as a display of the only way they know to make their statement of disgust.   No new members.   No retention of old members.   The end of a great Wing.  

While we understand this is all by design, master minded by Steve Brown and a few select general staff members. Concepts like Failure By Design employed on the Permian Basin to make excuse to move to the big city.   The future of the CAF.  A couple of mega Wings, Super Wings, Airbases, or Star Ship Enterprises, whatever nifty word you want to call them.  The “Good Old Boy’s Flying Club” has never been so prolific  as it is today, and as grand as you think you are, you will have a difficult time without the members.   Those who are in it for person gain you will keep.   Those who are in it to support the true values of the generation that fought WWII will be history – such is the members of the New Mexico Wing.            

Diane Fenner #11263, Life Member #2785

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Remarkable Unseen Color Footage of Postwar Air Racing

Bill Brennand is one of those guys who got things done and made them happen. Unfortunately, his name is also one of the many that are now, for the most part, unknown to the pilot population at large.  For him and many others like him I dream of a renewed interest in real aviation history.  We've simply had enough P-51 and Chuck Yeager stories to last a multitude of lifetimes.  Maybe Bill's amazing films will help?
If you don't know the name Bill Brennand, don't feel bad.  Aviation as a whole has done a poor job of keeping our best history alive in the minds of others.  Thankfully though, if the desire exists in you, it is still possible to learn about the untold history of aviation. Pick up a random published work at a place like the EAA store, subscribe to what I call small batch publications like WWI Aeroplanes and Skyways, or randomly pick a word or phrase like "air racing" and plug it into google and read until you hit a reference then follow or google that reference and so on until it's 3am.  These are great ways to learn the untold stories of aviation and to find memories like those which belong to Bill Brennand.
Fortunatley for you, Bill is one of those people who wrote a book.  Here's what the Amazon listing says about it, "As a promising young pilot working for air racing legend Steve Wittman, Brennand won the Goodyear Trophy at the National Air Races in 1947 without ever flying a practice course. He went on to out-fly veteran air race pilots and was in the winner's circle many more times. Retiring from air racing and air shows at age 26, he started flying one of the first corporate executive transport aircraft. Later he ran his own airport at the height of general aviation, oversaw one of the most remarkable aircraft restorations of all time with his Stinson Tri-Motor and through a curious twist of fate helped the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) develop one of the world's busiest seaplane bases".  Sounds like history in the making doesn't he?
Thanks to Mr. Brennand's book many of our grass roots aviation stories were preserved in print. Now though it turns out there's more to the story.  Bill did something else for us; he made color film of post-war air races and airshows.  That's right, he took rare color film of these events and many years ago he had them converted to DVD.   There helping him was Jessica Voruda (note-from a younger generation).
Recently she was thinking about those videos, mostly unseen by the masses, and she decided to put them online and provide a link so that others could see what this time in aviation was like. Be sure to watch them.  Even she didn't realize they contained footage of the aircraft that put an end to The Cleveland Air Races.  In one scene you can even see the smoke rising from the crash.
So there you have it; thanks to Bill's documentation and Jessica's desire to have others see the historical films, we now have something really cool added back into the title "history".
The crash that put an end to it all.
And one last thing; I think it is important to point out how someone from a "younger generation" has helped with the preservation of this history.  I talked to Jessica today and it seems Bill and her might very well be getting together to add some narration and put it all together into one production; wait and see (thanks Jessica, and Bill, if you're reading this, it's a great idea).  The important thing is that younger folks and their technology are often put down when in reality, if seen in the proper light, they could very well be our sport's saving grace.  Keep that in mind the next time you poo poo someone like that. 
Super Corsair on its nose.
If you missed all the links to the videos above, click here to see them.  When you're done, look toward the bottom of this post and you'll see a little envelope icon with an arrow on it.  If you want to share it with others, you can email it by clicking on that icon or you can use the other icons to post it to social networks.

Monday, January 20, 2014

An Outright Amazing "DC-3" Rescue (Updated)

Photo by Don Wray
While perusing the online world for the latest flash in aviation's pan, I stumbled upon something unbelievable yet true.  Eyes wide open and jaw hanging, I was amazed when I saw it.  This Antarctic recovery of a "Turbine 3", which technically is way off the mark but we all know that's what it is, is nothing short of awe inspiring.  If you don't believe me, check out the photos by clicking here.
Thanks to Don Wray for sharing these images with us.  His job was Camp Manager and while working the logistics to keep things going, as he put it, he also "moved a lot of snow".  When all was said and done it took 42 days and a great team of dedicated people to rebuild this old girl and get her going again.
Photo by Don Wray
So what happened to her in the first place?  On takeoff she hit an ice chunk concealed in the snow which ripped the gear off and she belly flopped in.  Now though she's back in the land of the living.
If you haven't looked at the photos yet, note that big outcrop of rock in the background.
Photo 49 makes you wonder if "outcrop" satisfactorily defines it.
Congratulations again to the team that accomplished this task.  This also includes Katabatic Consulting, Kenn Borek Air, and ALCI.   I understand Don is going to put together a video on the effort which will be similar to the one featured below of a lesser damage rescue in 2009. Here's the final video.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I'm Sorry, I Wasn't Able to Save It

Last year it came to my attention the last Stearman built was being restored by the United States Air Force Museum. While in a rush to get it done for black history month and a Tuskegee Airmen Display, they were pushing through the restoration at a pretty good pace when they discovered the writing above.
By the time I found out about the operation everything had been stripped and all that was left was the clean metal where the letters once were.  Yet, the letters placed on the plane at the factory were still clearly visible.  When I found out this was the case, among other things, I did my best to convince the museum to save at least one of these panels and clear coat it for display next to the finished airplane.  My thinking was that it was a true window into what made this plane so special but it seems those on the restoration board did not feel the same.
Notice the large sign and letters on the plane in this photo.  The smaller letters on the
panels seen above and below were painted on the plane by Boeing at a later date.
From what I understand, the only existing evidence of this plane's true place in history will be painted over, if it hasn't been already.  Other than that, the only way remaining that would enable a person to tell it was the last one made is the data plate, which you can't get close enough to see because you're you and they're them, and a plaque that will most likely make a very slight reference to it after telling the story how planes like this were used at Tuskegee.  What a shame this is when planes that were actually used there exist.
It says, "This is the last of 10,346 Boeing Kaydets produced at Boeing Wichita for
the US Army, US Navy, and the United Nations".  Oh wait, it just hit me, it doesn't say
Air Force.  Now it all makes sense.
I won't go into the subject at length but I hope those of you who would ever consider giving a plane to one of these large government run, and or large static only museums, would rethink it. This is just another example of how those organizations typically claim to preserve history but actually just use the displays for political statements and tourist traps with little real passion for the lineage of the machines.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ever Need to Explain Commercial Aviation to Someone?

Do you ever get questions about things so common to you as a pilot you don't even think about them anymore? When an airplane lands at the wrong airport do all your friends and family look to you to answer every benign question they have?  Or maybe you're just tired of people not getting it.
What about the everyday life of a commercial pilot; what's it like?  Are there things people can do to make commercial aviation more enjoyable?  How do you spot the difference between this plane and that one? What's the difference between cargo and passenger flying?  The list goes on an on.
If you are a commercial 121 pilot like me, when people ask questions about your job you have little to say.  Sometimes I can't think of a single thing worth mentioning.  But yet when I started writing this I began to realize the endless number of subjects that could be covered which would actually be of interest to a large group of people. That seems to be where Ken Hoke is going with his blog, AeroSavvy.
Ken does a great job of covering the mundane and reminding us those things aren't always as boring as we've come to believe.  In fact, he often proves otherwise.  When he doesn't it's on purpose.  The rest of the time AeroSavvy is covering the exciting parts and explaining them in a manner that makes it understandable to the masses.
Check out his blog to see what I mean.  If he holds course, I think he's found a nice not-so-little niche.  Furthermore, wouldn't it be nice to answer those questions with "Check out AeroSavvy"?

Hey Ken, how about a post that covers the good-natured jabs between pilots?  Being a light twin operator, you'd be perfectly suited for it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ever Wanted to Fly A Bf109?

Tell me that's not cool.
Have you ever wanted to fly a Bf109 but were not allowed to because, as you were told, only Gods could fly it?  Yeah, me too.  I've never had the money to be considered a God but one day in the future I may be able to ride with one (hopefully not the God who dinged this one) in a rare two seater Bf109-G12.  Yes, that's right; while repairs are made to the wrecked single seater pictured below, two seater modifications are being added.
Thanks to an owner with vision and work being carried out by Meier Motors, the single seater pictured above will one day look like those in the black and white photos from WWII. Additionally, and so you can get that full God-like experience, it will be powered with a Daimler motor.  If you're going to soar with eagles you might as well do it with a proper powerplant don't you think?  Me too.  And like you, I can't wait to see this bird in the sky.
By the way, does anybody know how much it costs to be a God for a day?
This could be you.  Watch the Meier Motors website for updates.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Is It Hot In Here?

See a high resolution version by clicking here.  Psssst, 48x36.
If you would like to make a contribution to the Lee Bottom Flying Field art collection, let me suggest "Jessi". That's it.  Nothing more to say.  Some things are best left unsaid.  Saying nothing is often the best option. Yep just merely offering a gift suggestion.  Wait, let me rethink that.
We already have enough planes around here.  And who needs a bike anyway.  I can hear it now, "Where'd you drag that in from"? You know, come to think of it, it's probably best we just forget I mentioned this little piece of canvas.  There's no place left to put it anyway.
Better yet, why not just send it to those folks who got themselves stuck in ice while looking to prove global warming.  The proof is right here. 

Your Flying Heart Will Pound With Desire

I found this photo at the The Back Country Pilot website.
A while back a friend said to me, "Now that we're moving closer, you better not move to Alaska".  Then that same guy recently told me, "I'd really like to see you doing something you enjoy again".   What the heck pal? You get one or the other.
OK, all joking aside, watch this video below about aviation in Alaska.  It's beautiful. Everything about it is attractive and alluring.  But be warned; this film may make it difficult to keep your promises.

Click here to watch the video.  You won't be disappointed. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Video You Never Want to End

With video cameras on nearly every phone, today it's pretty common to see interesting moments caught "on film". Yet, since these interesting videos are so prevalent, they've also lost some draw.  If you don't believe me, when was the last time you watched a video to the end or without fast forwarding it?  There just isn't much that grabs you and won't let go.  The video below is not one of them.
Five seconds into this video my eyes were already scanning the time counter to see how long it was because I knew I didn't want it to end.  How often to you see video of the Pan Am seaplane operations you haven't already seen?  And have you ever seen them in color?
I honestly can't remember being so torn by a video because I knew it way shorter than I wanted it to be and the more it played the closer it came to being over too soon.  Man, those were incredible times.  Watch it and see for yourself.  I could watch hours of it.