About Me

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I live in the Florida Keys. I've been in the military and worked inside the Beltway. I've had 22 technical books and two novels published. I fly, boat, dive, shoot, and swim pretty damn well.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A "PRACTICAL" Nuclear Power Plant

Here is a great article about a " micro size Nuclear Reactor that is designed to power individual apartment buildings or city blocks. The new reactor, which is only 20 feet by 6 feet, could change everything for small remote communities, small businesses or even a group of neighbors who are fed up with the power companies and want more control over their energy needs."
"Toshiba expects to install the first reactor in Japan in 2008 and to begin marketing the new system in Europe and America in 2009."
Hey man, I had a hard enough time getting the local building inspector to sign off on a 15KW gas generator. Think I'll go into a city council meeting and tell them that the condo I'm putting up on the beach is going to have its own nuclear generator!
The sociology will be more difficult than the technology. But, I admire the technology. SEE THIS LINK for the story. (And a tip of the hat to Jonathan Schmidt for the story).


The folks at SONEX have put together a proof-of-concept flying version of a practical electric airplane. Okay, it's "practical" if 45 minutes is your typical flight profile. Hey, I know a lot of builders of experimental aircraft who get less flight time than that! It would work for me in the Keys.

You go out and fly for half an hour in the morning, bypass the fuel pump on landing, plug it in, and go fly again in the afternoon.

The engineering is fascinating. The motor is the size of a coffee can. Well, yes, the batteries do take up a bunch of room. See it at THIS LINK. A video is HERE.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Flying Cars -- A Reality (?)

Is there a pilot who does not love the concept of a flying car? These guys have a cmplete concept and even a little movie to back it up. Light sport? Zow... See THIS LINK to "Wired" Magazine.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Has anyone seen a good discussion of "other than internal combustion" power for GA aircraft? My reason for asking is this quote: "Honda claims that their current V-flow fuel cell stack, 100 kW electric motor and Li-Ion battery weigh the same or less than a conventional hybrid powertrain producing less power."

THIS ARTICLE is talking about alternative sources of automotive power, but they are working at about 130HP. If you know of any aviation discussion threads on fuel cell or hybrid power for GA acft, please let me know. You can email me directly at fderfler@gmail.com

Wonderful Sci-Fi Art -- Promoting Science and Aviation

Remember when fiction and the popular press promoted science and aviation? That's before the liberal arts writers decided to use their presses to make fun of those who made more money and contributed more to society than they did.

Anyway, I digress, this link will take you to some great old Sci-Fi art. Really neat stuff. Much of it Russian, by the way!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Red Baron Team is Dissolved

Oh goodness -- the end of another era. My family and I have enjoyed their air shows in many venues. One day last year I landed at Peter O. Knight in Tampa right after these guys, taxied in with them, chatted with them, and admired their planes. A truly nifty squadron. But, I'll admit that in my mind they did more for aviation than for the company's pizza. The story is from AOPA online and contains a link for more information and a video from AOPA.

COMPANY DISSOLVES RED BARON PIZZA SQUADRONCiting changes in the retail grocery industry, the Schwan Food Company on Dec. 3 abruptly discontinued sponsorship of the Red Baron Pizza Squadron after 28 years in order to "refocus" the Red Baron marketing program. Director of Flight Operations Jayson Wilson said his first priority is to assist the 16 employees who supported the team's airshow performances, and then to dispose of the team's assets, including seven flyable Boeing Stearman aircraft and an additional four museum-quality Stearmans. "It's kind of a sad day," he added. He said some of the pilots had dreamed of flying for the team since their youth. Senior Editor Al Marsh flew with them last spring along with AOPA Pilot photographer Chris Rose. Read the feature and see a video clip of the flight on AOPA Online.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The "Lost Patrol" of the Devil's Triangle is Remembered

The "Lost Patrol" ... long a favorite of sci-fi and other world wackos.. is remembered. Note, however, that the caption on the picture demoted the Naval Lieutenant in the ceremony. This is the 51st anniversary of their flight. See the story here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A View on the Sliding Dollar

I note that tourism is up because of the sliding dollar AND that several foreign companies are looking at starting manufacturing plants in the US because it now makes economic sense for them.

My son-in-law and I recently discussed the sliding dollar as we were eating dinner out with a zillion other people eating expensive dinners in Tampa. (Observation; the high price of gas has not slowed down dining out in this area.) Later, by chance, I came across this excellent article on the dollar's slide. .. with comments. See This Link for the whole story.

Zodiac Dreams -- When I grow up!

We had a great aeronautical display sponsored by EAA Chapter 1241 in Marathon, FL on Nov 1. See this link for more information.
We have many great planes on the tarmac for the civilians to see. In the picture below, ONE airplane is mine. The others are not. (There is NO prize for figuring out which one is mine!) But, the question is, what is in the 601's mind while she is sitting there next to the Mustang?

Santa Tracking on NORAD

I can't verify this story, but I can verify that it is being officially published by Google. Interesting trivia and something to do with children or grandchildren. --FJD

Posted by Carrie Farrell, Veteran Santa Tracker
It was more than half a century ago, on Christmas Eve in 1955, that a Sears Roebuck & Co. store in Colorado Springs advertised a special hotline number for kids to call Santa. What the company didn't know at the time was that they had inadvertently misprinted the telephone number. Instead of Santa's workshop, the phone number put kids through to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the bi-national U.S.-Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace defense of the U. S. and Canada. Worse, it wasn't just any number at NORAD: it was the commander-in-chief's operations hotline. In the spirit of the season, Colonel Harry Shoup, the director of operations at the time, had his staff check radar data for any indication of a sleigh making its way south from the North Pole. They found that indeed there were signs of Santa, and merrily gave the children who called an update on his location. Thus, a tradition was born, and NORAD has continued to help children track Santa on Christmas Eve ever since.

It just so happens that Colonel Shoup is my grandfather, which is why I'm so excited that, 52 years later, Google is joining the effort. This holiday season, NORAD has partnered with Google to use technology including Google Maps, Google Earth, iGoogle and YouTube to track Santa. I can remember tracking Santa with my grandfather as a child, and I'm so proud to see my company carry on his vision of doing something this special for kids around the world.

The countdown begins December 1st on NORAD's website , where families can find a new kid-friendly game or activity every day until December 24th. And starting at 1:00 am PST on December 24th, you'll be able to track Santa's trip in real time. You can download Google Earth and add the NORAD Tracks Santa iGoogle gadget to your iGoogle page anytime, but make sure to come back to www.noradsanta.org\u003c/a\> on December 24th to download the special Santa Tracking file for an enhanced 3D Santa-tracking

Harry and Carrie.

Politico Ads and TIVO

We have both TIVO for cable and a DirecTV PVR for satellite. We only have the DirecTV for the NFL package, but that is a different story.

We will NEVER watch a political campaign ad. Do you think that the candidates will "get" that NO ONE is watching their ads EXCEPT those poor slugs who don't have a TIVO-like PVR? I do not know what that demographic of ad-watchers is, but I do know that it isn't me or anyone I know.

Of course, each candidate's media advisor gets a percentage of the media spending. SO, that media person will never tell the candidate (who has no clue about the real world) that no normal person will ever watch their ads. -- FJD

Florida Doesn't Have Enough Sunshine for Solar Power

An interesting article saying that, despite the chamber of commerce hype, "Florida can't produce that much renewable power because the state's solar potential, or the level of sunshine, is average compared with other states, according to the Department of Energy. And the wind in Florida isn't strong enough to justify building huge wind farms"

Read it all here.

The article doesn't discuss harnessing tidal forces. That idea is gaining some strength in the Keys.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Rail Gun -- Straight from Stargate Atlantis

Well, actually rail guns (magnetic projectile slingers) have been in development for decades. There was an installation at Eglin AFB that used to shoot slugs out over the Gulf of Mexico. This article (again from my growing favorite: Popular Mechanics) shows the future of these linear accelerators. Keep in mind that these things have other uses. Such as launching cargo from a base on the moon. See this Webpage...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Boeing's Laser Avenger

How could any good military person NOT want to play with something called the "Laser Avenger"? Boeing is doing the marketing and the very great Popular Mechanics is doing the reporting. See this link for this nifty Laser shooter!

I always wanted to mount a .50 cal on my Jeep for traffic control. This really is cooler. Invisible heat ray. Yeah! Also see this link --but it isn't very aerodynamic! 95GHz beams are way way way up there in the spectrum!

Cheap Dirty Fuels Versus Costly Clean Fuels

At this link, you'll find an interesting article comparing the various energy/fuel alternatives. I do not know if the author's numbers are all 100% accurate, but some of the factors I do know about sync up with what the author is saying.

I always get my teeth on edge when people compare the "payback period" of various solar, geothermal, etc systems because they usually do the comparison so simplistically. They conveniently forget about life cycle costs. In other words, wind power is dandy, as long as you are ready to replace bearings and batteries every 3-5 years, rectifiers every 7-10 years, etc. If you take the real life-cycle costs of these systems, you never get "payback" over petro-power no matter what the price of a barrel of oil.

Ethanol particularly sets me off as full of stupid trade-offs. If you want to be informed, this is a good article to read. As for me... I want Tom Swift and Ultrasonic Cycloplane.

Without Tom's latest aircraft, which uses ultrasonic rotating drums to provide lift, a rescue attempt would be impossible. Battling violent weather conditions, the young inventor lands the DRUMHAWK and organizes a rescue expedition. --Hey, reading is believing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Good Article by George Will

This article by George Will is worth reading and citing. "...the stock market has predicted nine of the last three recessions." See http://www.newsweek.com/id/69539/page/1

Sunday, November 11, 2007

An Interesting Happening on 2nd Amendment Rights

There is an interesting 2nd Amendment case working its way toward the Supreme Court. "Both sides in a closely watched legal battle over the District of Columbia's strict gun-control law are urging the Supreme Court to hear the case. " See this link for more information.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Airline sacrifices goats to appease sky god

Airline sacrifices goats to appease sky god

One can not make this stuff up. Gee, do you think there are some cultural chasms here?
See this link for the Reuters article.

Want to Know What is Happening in Iraq? Read this....

The Mudville Gazette is a blog written by a military officer with the radio callsign "Greyhawk". He is presently serving in Iraq. One of his latest posts is: "How the War was Won (Part one)"

Please read his blog and support his activities with a donation. I do. See this link. Oh, and ask yourself again, "Why don't I read about this in the New York Times??"

The NYT is down to a weekday circulation of about 1.2 million. A lot of these copies are put into hotel rooms and offices where they have an unknown fate. That is about the same circulation size as PC Magazine in its heyday. But, at least at PC Mag we had a great pass-along readership. Only 2.1 million readers for the "Newspaper of Record"? Gee, I wonder why they are doing so poorly?

While you are wondering about the old media, view these MILBLOGS. That's the way to find things the "Grey Lady" will never tell you. This list just shows some of the newest MILBLOGS. Not necessarily the best. The list of the "best ever" contains some that are a couple of year old. The troops move on and get new priorities. Still, you can learn a lot by listening to those who are doing the job.

Recently Added
A Battlefield Tourist
10 Nov 2007
Humbled Infidel
09 Nov 2007
Military Spouses for Change
09 Nov 2007
This Veteran's Life
08 Nov 2007
Hurry Up and Wait
04 Nov 2007
Ish's Cyber Wolf Den
03 Nov 2007
My War Stories
03 Nov 2007
Thoughts on Military History
28 Oct 2007
Susan Katz Keating
27 Oct 2007
Yellowhammering Afghanistan
25 Oct 2007
View Complete Chart...
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Alphabetical Listing
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A Plug for my friend Harry Newton

There is a great and industrious gentleman I've known for decades who writes a daily column. The column is arguably about technology and investing, but it is actually about living the good life... or a good life.

I believe you'll find Harry's daily column very enjoyable. My wife and I certainly do. See http://www.technologyinvestor.com/index.php I highly recommend one dose every day!

Man made Global Warming is a "SCAM" -- A good source!

John Coleman is the founder of the weather channel and a very well known and respected meteorologist. He is a scientist and a thinker. In this interview, he says he is "...amazed, appalled and highly offended by it. Global Warming..."

He says, "I have read dozens of scientific papers. I have talked with numerous scientists. I have studied. I have thought about it. I know I am correct. There is no run away climate change. The impact of humans on climate is not catastrophic. Our planet is not in peril. I am incensed by the incredible media glamour, the politically correct silliness and rude dismissal of counter arguments by the high priest of Global Warming. "

Read the whole thing here.


The Department of Defense robot car challenge ran on unpaved roads for a couple of years. This year they did city streets. One story with movies and pictures is here http://www.tfot.info/news/1038/boss-wins-darpas-urban-challenge.html I've always thought that these things are great for the technology and for everyone involved. --FJD

Interesting Insight on Global Warming

The author of this piece is an economist who is a writer and teacher in the Netherlands. He isn't a radical. But, he has produced this very interesting piece about the rebound against the idea of man-made global warming in Europe.

Here are some interesting things you'll learn in this piece; 1. How AlGore got his award through five Norwegian politicians (not Swedish Academics) who hijacked the process. 2. How some in Europe are starting to wake up It's well done. See http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=110107A

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

HIGH FLIGHT with FAA Annotations

"High Flight" is a great poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. See this link for full information about the poem. But, since nothing is sacred...

"High Flight" (with FAA annotations)

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth (1 ),And danced (2 ) the skies on laughter silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed (3) and joined the tumbling mirth ( 4)Of sun-split clouds (5 ) and done a hundred things (6 )
You have not dreamed of -- Wheeled and soared and swung (7 )High in the sunlit silence ( 8). Hov'ring there (9)
I've chased the shouting wind (10 ) along and flung ( 11)My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious (12 ), burning blue I've topped the wind-swept heights ( 13) with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle (14 ) flew;And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space (15 ),Put out my hand ( 16), and touched the face of God.


1. Pilots must insure that all surly bonds have been slipped entirely before aircraft taxi or flight is attempted.
2. During periods of severe sky dancing, crew and passengers must keep seatbelts fastened. Crew should wear shoulder belts as provided.
3. Sunward climbs must not exceed the maximum permitted aircraft ceiling.
4. Passenger aircraft are prohibited from joining the tumbling mirth.
5. Pilots flying through sun-split clouds under VFR conditions must comply with all applicable minimum clearances.
6. Do not perform these hundred things in front of Federal Aviation Administration inspectors.
7. Wheeling, soaring, and swinging will not be attempted except in aircraft rated for such activities and within utility class weight limits.
8. Be advised that sunlit silence will occur only when a major engine malfunction has occurred.
9. "Hov'ring there" will constitute a highly reliable signal that a flight emergency is imminent.
10. Forecasts of shouting winds are available from the local FSS. Encounters with unexpected shouting winds should be reported by pilots.
11. Pilots flinging eager craft through footless halls of air are reminded that they alone are responsible for maintaining separation from other eager craft.
12. Should any crewmember or passenger experience delirium while in the burning blue, submit an irregularity report upon flight termination.
13. Windswept heights will be topped by a minimum of 1,000 feet to maintain VFR minimum separations.
14. Aircraft engine ingestion of, or impact with, larks or eagles should be reported to the FAA and the appropriate aircraft maintenance facility.
15. Aircraft operating in the high untresspassed sanctity of space must remain in IFR flight regardless of meteorological conditions and visibility.
16. Pilots and passengers are reminded that opening doors or windows in order to touch the face of God may result in loss of cabin pressure.

An Excellent Aviation Story

"Back in the old days..." when I was a 2Lt. sitting in an Air Defense Control Sector in Great Falls, Montana, we used to watch the YF-12 make speed runs. (The sector was SAGE and the YF-12 was the interceptor version of the SR-71)

Our scopes covered the US down to about the middle of Idaho. The SR-71 would would be making his turn when he came on the bottom of the scope. But, without vectored thrust and with really thin air at 65,000', the turn was more like a skid on ice. He would continue to turn all the way across Idaho and through most of Montana before heading South again. We used vector arrows on the symbology to indicate speed and when he got back straight and level his vector arrow covered half the scope.

This story below is great. --FJD

+++++++++++++++++++++ Written by Brian Schul - former sled driver

There were a lot of things we couldn't do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane - intense, maybe, even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be thefastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly. My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months.

Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet. I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. There he was, with no really good view of the incredible sights before us, tasked with monitoring four different radios. This was good practice for him forwhen we began flying real missions, when a priority transmission from headquarters could be vital. It had been difficult, too, for me to relinquish control of the radios, as during my entire flying career I had controlled my own transmissions. But it was part of the division of duties in this plane and I had adjusted to it.

I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however. Walt was so good at many things, but he couldn't match my expertise at sounding smooth on the radios, a skill that had been honed sharply with years in fighter squadrons where the slightest radio miscue was grounds for beheading. He understood that and allowed me that luxury.

Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace.

We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot who asked Center for a read-out of his ground speed. Center replied: "November Charlie 175, I'm showing you at ninety knots on the ground."

Now the thing to understand about Center controllers, was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna, or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional tone that made one feel important. I referred to it as the "Houston Center voice." I have always felt that after years of seeing documentaries on this country's space program and listening to the calm and distinct voice of the Houston controllers, that all other controllers since then wanted to sound like that and that they basically did. And it didn't matter what sector of the country we would be flying in, it always seemed like the same guy was talking. Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne. Better to die than sound bad on the radios."

Just moments after the Cessna's inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed in Beech."I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed." Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren.

Then out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up onfrequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. "Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check." Before Center could reply, I'm thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million-dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a read-out?

Then I got it, ol' Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He's the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet. And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: "Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground." And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought,it must be done - in mere seconds we'll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now. I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. I was torn. Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet.

Then, I heard it - the click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: "Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?" There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request. "Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground." I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his mostfighter-pilot-like voice: "Ah, Center, much thanks, we're showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money."For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Houston Center voice, when L.A. came back with, "Roger that Aspen. Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys havea good one."

It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day's work. We never heard another transmission on that frequencyall the way to the coast. For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Really Scary Aviation Movie : Runway incursion

I have been lost on an airport. In my airplane my butt is about two feet off the ground. I have better perspective standing up. So, I can understand getting lost on a taxiway in a fog. Some people ctitique the United pilots, but I can understand their situation.

In fact, it sounds like the male United pilot understands exactly how bad things are and is ummm.. "highly stressed"

The controller is suffering from underwhelming caution. She should have been as scared as the United pilot.

All praise for the pilot of USAir 2998. That guy deserves a medal... just for doing his job! See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BvgSS6kBdU

What's Going on in Iraq? Here is a very informed view

Victor Davis Hanson is a very smart man. As a historian and academic, he brings both insight and analysis to his view. As a person who goes out and tours with the troops and walks the ground, he is informed.

Isn't it fascinating that since General Petraeus testified to Congress, Iraq has dropped off of all mainstream media coverage? We read and hear more, much more, about Burma/Myanmar in the press than we do about Iraq. It is the case, I guess, that good news is no news.

Please read this report from Victor Davis Hanson. It is the second report of three. The first report is also worth reading, but he had more time to prepare this one. The third report is yet to come.

Getting Rid of No-Slip Tape Part II

The unanimous advice is to use a heat gun. With the advice "But, don't burn the paint." Attempts coming soon!

Monday, October 1, 2007

The GREAT Flying in Crocs Controversy

Oh my gosh... the flood of email. The controversy! I published a photo that incidentally showed my feet on the rudder pedals in a pair of Crocs shoes. The comments rolled in: "You'll get stuck in the pedals!" "You'll be found with a Croc under the pedals." "Don't ride an escalator. "

Good grief people. Get a life.

I always swore that I wouldn't buy a pair of Crocs. MOST of them are grossly ugly. But, I stumbled across a pair with sewn leather uppers that I think looking passingly cool. And, since I fly in areas where the outside ambient air temp is never below 70 degrees and often above 90 degrees, Crocs keep your feet from sweating. Also, in your Crocs you just don't care if the ramp is full of puddles. They are practical and comfortable.

I am happy to report, as these pictures show, that there is PLENTY of room in the rudder space on a Zodiac 601XL for a pair of Crocs. Now please, go find something different to complain about.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Beautiful Piece of Work from Popular Mechanics

Popular Science and Popular Mechanics influenced and really swayed my entire life. I grew up on the electronic adventures "Carl and Jerry" in Popular Mechanics" and "Gus Wilson" and the "Model Garage" in Popular Science. See this link for an update and a look back to Gus!

"Carl and Jerry" really influenced my life!

Who would have thought that Popular Mechanics could re-invent itself so well? IF ONLY PC Magazine and other publications I worked with had been so savvy! See this link for a beautiful story from the vivid and dynamic modern version of Popular Mechanics!

A Super Plan for a Lunar Shot

I do not agree with those who say that space exploration is a "waste' of money. In my view, the business of government is to pump money. Pumping it into scientific exploration is a hell of a lot better than pumping it into "targeted" social programs that usually have many downside "unforseen" impacts.

I would rather enjoy the benefits of technology than the drag of sociology. Space exploration is (far better!) science than is sociology. THIS ARTICLE from Popular Mechanics is interesting! Worth reading.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Newspaper Comments on Generalship

"It appears we have appointed our worst generals to command forces, and our most gifted and brilliant to edit newspapers. In fact, I discovered by reading newspapers that these editor/geniuses plainly saw all my strategic defects from the start, yet failed to inform me until it was too late. Accordingly, I am readily willing to yield my command to these obviously superior intellects, and I will, in turn, do my best for the Cause by writing editorials - after the fact." Robert E. Lee, 1863

Those of you who think this quote is too good to be true will be interested in the "Urban Legend" research concerning the quote at Snopes.com At the very least, it was attributed to Lee during his lifetime, so it seems quite legitimate. Although it is often copied, re-phrased, and variously attributed. I'm certain that the very same thing occurred to various Greek and Roman field generals in times BC. --FJD
See : http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/robertelee.asp

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Google Earth to get Sharper Images

I love Google Earth for flying and boating. Even with a GPS, finding an unfamiliar airport can be frustrating. Taking a look at the airport on Google Earth before you leave home gives you a much better set of references than that dot on the GPS.

(Aside: When will I get a HUD in my GA aircraft that will point out the damn runway? I understand that some GMC cars now have HUD options for the radio, etc.)

According to Reuters, DigitalGlobe, provider of imagery for Google Inc's (GOOG.O) interactive mapping program Google Earth, said a new high-resolution satellite will boost the accuracy of its satellite images and flesh out its archive....

The new satellite "will offer half-meter resolution and will be able to collect over 600,000 square kilometers of imagery each day, up from the current collection of that amount each week..." See THIS LINK

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Finding Steve Fossett: Fascinating Tech App

Some of you might have seen this from other aviation sources, but it's worth repeating if only to marvel at the technology. Amazon.com is somehow cooperating with Google Earth and asking anyone and everyone to visually scan current images of the Steve Fossett search area to look for anything unusual.

See http://www.mturk.com/mturk/preview?groupId=9TSZK4G35XEZJZG21T60&kw=story

This is a fascinating story of technology and sociology. From the perspective of my age and history, it is mind blowing. Anyone in the world can help find the man missing in Nevada from any computer in the world. Fascinating.

Yes, yes, there are a dozen possible objections from those critical of anything. Why him? Why don't we use these resources for World Peace or something? Yeah, yeah. But, it takes little steps and this use of technology is ....jaw dropping.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Dynon Jumping Angle of Attack Indicator

Overall, I am very (very) happy with my Dynon D-180. I should have put a D-10A on the other side for my co-pilots, but that's my poor planning to "do over".

The only complaint I have is with the optional angle of attack indicator. The movie below shows this fluttering AoA indication. I'd appreciate any comments on "should it be that way".

Note that we have changed the pitot, checked the tubing, and that I am just one revision behind on the Dynon firmware update. (Hey, it's a problem today finding a laptop with a serial port!)

Anyone out there with AoA experience that cares to comment?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How Did They Make This Movie?

I received this movie "Off the Internet" in email. Credit for film production and creation is to Bruce Branit and Jeremy Hunt. It has a great airplane scene that isn't real, but sure looks real! Does anyone know the background of this movie and particularly how they made it? It's impressive and funny. Enjoy. -- FJD

Monday, September 3, 2007

Excellent Insight into the US Military in Iraq

Many of us are frustrated by the negative reporting from Iraq and by reporters who will not leave the "Green Zone." I recently heard an NPR reporter say "It's too dangerous to travel in Iraq" on the air.

Well, there are independent reporters (maybe not "Journalists"... A term I have come to regard as elite BS) who do travel the country finding good stories. One of the best, "Talking with Heroes" combines text with audio recordings. The site takes some time to go through, but if you are interested in military matters, it is a great site to visit on a regular basis. See http://talkingwithheroes.blogspot.com/ I highly recommend it!

Copied from "Talking with Heroes" is this list of other independent reporters in Iraq. On a personal note, I frequently contribute (through PAY PAL) to Michael Yon linked below. His stuff is worth paying for.

Michael Yon - Former Special Forces soldier
Wesley Morgan - Student at Princeton University
Matt Sanchez - Former MarineBill Roggio - His non-profit, PMI, supports several embeds)Michael J. Totten - Civilian analyst
Laughing Wolf - Civilian, and career independent journalist (preparing to go)
abd the Big Daddy of milblogs, Blackfive.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A BEAUTIFUL Ford Tri-Motor REady two fly -- $3M

I flew in a Ford Tri-Motor (way in the back) out of Put-in-Bay Ohio many years ago. I was so impressed. Well, here is your chance to stop traffic at every airport you visit. A much better use for your $3M than some VLJ or turboprop turbotrash.

You have to see the site just to admire the beauty! -- http://www.ipass.net/ginkgo/N9612home.html

Saturday, August 25, 2007

F-22 Bubble Check at Elmendorf

In the good old days we called it a "Bubble Check". The interceptors we were controlling would buzz the radar site to see if the bubble was in place. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Garrett Hothan)

In this case it's a bit of an optical illusion. This F-22 is taking off from Elmendorf AFB in Alaska and passing next to the RAPCON radar bubble. Not really GCI (ground control intercept), but a cool picture.

The event was the 90th Anniversary of the 90th fighter squadron. According to the USAF news release, the 90th was activated on Aug 20, 1917 and in their history they've flown about everything from the Sopwith TF-1 to the B-25, to the F-22. . See THIS LINK for more info on the 90th from the USAF. Update: More here

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dave's Batplane Flies Again!

A Really Nifty

It looks a lot like Batman's personal Batplane. You might have seen a sister ship in the EAA magazine and in other publications. N18DW, a JD-2 Dyke Delta, was built and recently rebuilt by Dave Williams who is a member of EAA Chapter 1241 in the Florida Keys.

N18DW first flew in April of 1972 and in the 70s, wearing yellow and black colors, it was on the covers of several books and magazines. The aircraft had been in storage since the 1980's, but Dave decided a little more than a year ago to get her back into the air. This time it is fitted with a 210 HP Lycoming IO-390-X that is 30 more HP than the original configuration. He added a three bladed MT Constant Speed Propeller. The target cruise for this retractable is 195 mph and a range of 900 miles or more.

Dave had help from Tom Bauer in Sabastian for some well needed assistance for the flight. Tom built his Delta a few years ago and his has over 2000 flight hours in it. Tom’s Delta was shown at Sun and Fun two years ago.

Dave took the airplane up to Immokalee in a trailer for the initial test flight. The open airspace and two long runways have a lot of appeal for this kind of activity. Here is Dave's description.

“I think that the initial flight of an experimental aircraft can best be compared to being locked into a confined space with all your ex-wives and girlfriends, all at the same time…………It will either be one of the best days of your life or the last day of your life!

Wooh Hoo!! Last Saturday was definitely one of the very best days I have ever known. Thanks to Tom Bauer's help, N18DW flew for the first time in 28 years. The remaining taxi tests were completed between rain showers at ambient temperatures of 98 to 108 degrees F. The temperature in the cock pit likely topped 120 degrees F. from run up to runway exit when I was able to open the canopy as I exited the runway. This really slowed me down. In fact, we shut down the taxi tests early on Friday because the OAT indicated 108 degrees F in the run up area and I thought I could easily make a bad mistake under those conditions.

The first flight went like this: The aircraft took off and climbed out just like old times. The conditions were turbulent from the heat generated thermal activity and the turbulence lasted until 3500 feet. I climbed out to 5000 feet, above the first layer of broken clouds to feel the aircraft out.

The primary purpose of the exercise was to determine the stability and get the approach and rotation speed of the aircraft. I tested the turn and roll rate at various air speeds and then determined that I would use 120 indicated for the downwind leg, 110 indicated for the base leg and 105 indicated for the final approach speed. I could have come down final at 100 but there was a lot of turbulence over some trees on the approach end of runway 9. I always add a few mph in turbulence. Please note that I don’t yet know what the airspeed indicator error is and the speeds were determined without prior experience biases. The speeds were determined by how the aircraft felt and a generous margin above stall speed for the first final approach.

After making the decisions on the pattern speeds, I dropped down in 1000 foot intervals to 1000 ft and felt the aircraft out in the above context at each 1000 ft interval. When I got down to pattern altitude I shot three or four twenty-foot high approaches to determine the power settings required to fly in the pattern and have good control of the rate of decent.

During taxi testing, I lifted off and flared to land so I already knew how the aircraft would behave after touchdown. The only missing component of the first landing that I had not yet experienced was the actual screech of the wheels at touchdown so it was time to make the first full stop landing. The first landing went well but I dropped the aircraft in the runway a bit hard. No cigar, but a good landing anyway.

Consider what happens with a constant speed prop when the engine can not make up the set point rpms. The governor causes the pitch to go flat in order to allow the engine to speed up and make the set point rpms. Also when the pitch goes flat there is a lot more drag and the aircraft will slow down quickly. If the aircraft slows quickly the rate of decent will increase and cause the aircraft to land hard and bounce. That is exactly what happened. The solution I discussed with Tom Bauer was very simple……SQUEEZE THE POWER OFF GENTLY AND YOU WILL GET A NICE L O N G S C R E E C H AT TOUCHDOWN..

When I rebuilt the airframe in the early 1980s I added an airspeed brake under the main spar which I removed in January of 2006 because I felt it would be unsafe because it would cause an unwanted downward pitch during deployment. I felt bad about removing it but the drag was below the center of lift and center of gravity and it would not have worked as desired. Had I been able to use the drag brake, I thought I could reduce the landing distance by 20 percent.

Lady luck was on my side however, because it is possible to use the constant speed prop as a drag brake simply by pulling the power completely off after flair and I can actually feel the deceleration. This will make for a significant reduction in the landing distance. It is too soon to tell but I may have achieved the effect of the drag brake by accident with the constant speed prop. I am excited to explore this aspect of the performance.

I won’t bore the group with the remaining flights, but they consisted of gear retractions, low approaches, crosswind landings and touch and goes. Turbulence was always there on approach, but then I learned to fly on the desert in El Paso, TX so it was more of a nuisance than a deterrent. The most critical part of a flight is after the flair and just before touchdown and the turbulence is 500 feet behind the approach end of the runway. I departed Immokalee on Monday for the 175 mile tow back to Key Largo. Towing the aircraft 350 miles to and from Immokalee was uneventful.

Special thanks to Tom Bauer for spending the week in Immolakee with me and N18DW. I really needed someone to bounce thoughts and ideas off and I could not have picked a better person then Tom Bauer. THANK YOU AGAIN TOM !

If anyone is going to test fly a Delta be sure that you bring along another Delta pilot, not just any airplane pilot. Although I have 500 hours of delta flight experience, I found Tom’s presence both helpful and reassuring. Twenty eight years is a long time to remember everything about handling the JD-2. "

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Russian Bear TU-95 Rousts the New Typhoon

Some brand new and shiny British Typhoons intercept an old cold and drafty Russian TU-95 Bear that is older than its pilots.

Hey guys, we used to intercept Bears with single engine mach .82 F-102s flying out of Alaska. This wasn't much of a stretch for a mach 2 Typhoon, but I guess it was a kick for the kids flying them.

What the Russians got out of this was a nice traditional "PARPRO" (Peacetime Aerial Reconnaissance Program) response. The Russians got to use old cheap assets to snoop on the newest tool in the British air defense ground environment system. No, the Russians weren't intimidated... instead they learned something and won the game. See the whole report. See how the British "talking heads" really don't have a clue as to what the operational probe was all about.

Congress Has (and deserves) Lower Ratings than the President

"Congress Approval Rating Matches Historical Low" Statistically, it can't go much lower without their own wives and kids voting against them. This low opinion is hard won and well deserved. It is clear that the folks in the House and Senate only care about power first and then about money for campaigns. It seems that the cesspool taints all that swim in it.

I sympathize with the states which wanted to establish term limits of their own. But, I've read the Constitution and the Supreme Court got it right. See this link to appreciate how our politicians rate.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Global Warming Hoax

First, let me start out by stating that I firmly believe we should reduce our consumption of oil for very sound political and economic reasons. We need to get away from foreign crude, get the hell out of the Middle East, and focus more on Mexico and the countries South of us and on China. I believe we should research and develop alternative energy sources -- although I also believe that Ethanol has more downside than upside.

So, in that, I am one with the Global Warming wackos in the need to reduce oil consumption. However, I don't subscribe to their religion in any other way. The concept that our smoke stacks and tail pipes contribute more to any possible global warming than the output of a single large volcano is just pseudo-scientific garbage.

Al Gore's charts are crap. They would prove again the old truth that "correlation does not mean causality" (memorize it... use it!) but, his charts don't really even show a correlation!

There are some pretty good updates on the hits the Global Warming fascists have taken at this blog and at one of my favorite Websites (highly recommended) TCS Daily. Follow the "Related Articles" links on TCS Daily for an education from some very bright (and non-wacko) folks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A "Doing Okay" Person's Charter Service SATSair

I love this idea. SATSair (Small Aircraft Transportation System) is a charter service for those of us who aren't rich enough to rent a jet, but are doing well enough to want to avoid the 3-7 hour road trip. One pilot in a nice new Cirus SR22 comes to get you and two of your friends, family, or co-workers. The pilot has a commercial rating and at least 1200 hours of flight time.

You buy a block of time and use them as you need. A block of 10 hours is $500 an hour.

Let's do some numbers on the back of an envelope. My Zodiac cost me $90K. In five years it will be worth $45K. So that's $9K a year. In five years I'll pay $10K for insurance, $8000 for tie down, $3000 in annuals (that's low for a reason), $4000 in maintenance, and about $16,000 in gas and oil. So, that's about $86K to fly 500 hours or $172 an hour. So, I'm ahead! (Yes, I know I ignored the cost of money and some of my costs are pretty low). If I had started out with a $250K airplane sitting in a hangar, the numbers would be different.

Honestly, when I started the figuring I didn't think I'd beat the rental Cirrus. Oh yes, he has an IFR capability and that thing called "payload", but don't bust my bubble.

I still like this SATSair idea. Honestly, it would make the commute between Tampa and the Keys a WHOLE LOT better! Check it out here.

Der Spiegel says "The US military is more successful in Iraq than the world wants to believe."

I find it hard to believe that Der Spiegel, always my candidate for "The Only Paper That Hates America More Than the New York Times", has found lots of good things to say about US Forces in Iraq. Wow. Click here.

An Excellent roundup of VLJ info

James Fallows posted an excellent roundup of Very Light Jet information. See this link. It's better than I could have done.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The AMD Patriot LSA

During a recent trip to the AMD plant in Eastman, GA I saw the new AMD Patriot high wing LSA. I sat in it and stirred the controls. Some folks claim that it is a little easier to get in and out of than a Zodiac 601XL, but I never had a problem getting in and out of a 601! I prefer the low wing, but this high wing is set pretty far back. Here is a picture of the AMD Patriot sitting next to my pretty 601.

Invest in Semi-Auto Weapons for Appreciation!

I clearly remember sitting on my lanai above Pearl Harbor reading a column in "Car & Driver". It must have been 1974. The advice in the column was to gather $10,000 and go out and buy a Jaguar XKE V-12. New emission standards forced Jaguar to discontinue the V-12 XKE and the author urged the readers to "make an investment" in a V-12 E-Type. The bureaucrats were forcing a great piece of engineering out of existence and the writer suggested that you should grab one before they were gone because it would pay you back in the long run. Well, it sounded like a great idea to me, but my monthly gross pay in that year was about $2000, so $10K was a pretty good chunk of change!

Looking at the XKE for sale ads today, I see that the columnist was right. You could have driven a V-12 E-Type for all of those years and it would have kept up with inflation. Gas and maintenance aside, that $10K could be $110K today.

So, here is my investment advice: Buy semi-automatic weapons. The entry price is do-able, probably less than $1000 "per share", and the price is practically guaranteed to go up. They are certainly more liquid than a Jaguar and have the added benefit of being potentially life-saving.

There is a segment in the US that hates guns. It is pretty easy to see that they are rising to power. Their attacks are clever. The most recent approach is "mental health." The fact that the Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, was in a psychiatric center before he purchased his weapons has given the anti-gun lobby another rope to throw over those who wish to own guns.

I heard an NPR interview the other day where an eldercare professional said that those who care for the elderly classify any older patient who has a gun as "potentially dangerous".

My prediction is that the next shoe to drop will be child protection. In effect, "You can own a gun. You just can't have kids if you own a gun." I predict that the bureaucracy will play that hand in the form of ADC payments, enforcing child support orders, etc.

The guns they think they can get rid of first are semi-automatic "assault weapons." Personally, I don't see much use for an AR-15 or an AK-47 around the house myself, but there are a lot of peaceful folks in less peaceful places around the world who feel that an AK is as important as the walls of the house and probably more important than a toilet in daily life. A full auto AK is part of the "spray and pray" plan for taking care of their neighbors. We could get to that point pretty quickly in the US - as New Orleans demonstrated.

The attack on "assault weapons" is coming in many forms. Lawyers attack ammunition manufacturers (because they have money) and bureaucrats attack manufacturers of clips. The Mayor of New York, Nanny Bloomberg, and even Juliani continue to work anti-gun crowds despite evidence that the strong New York City gun laws only keep law-abiding folks from having guns.

I admit that if I am somehow appointed Emperor of the US, one of the first things I'll do is to crack down on weapons. Aftr all, I don't want an armed populace coming after me!

No matter who or what the attack or restrictions, supply will dry up and prices will skyrocket. Count on it.


The questions is "What to invest in now?" The two archetypes of modern semi-automatic assault weapons are the AR-15 and AK-47. This link takes you to a photo of an AR-15 with a very large...magazine. There are more of those photos here.

AR-15s are available new for prices ranging from $599 - $925. (More for the original Armalite) Practically every one who has had military training in the US in the last 25 years has fired one for familiarity, so they will keep their demand and have some liquidity. The .223 ammo might be hard to get in quantity. I think a good AR-15 in the $700 price range would be a good investment. This link takes you to more information from Atlantic Firearms (and no, I have no commercial ties to any of these companies.)

AK-47s are available new from manufacturers in Poland, Ukraine, China, and other places. There are restrictions on import and most of the weapons that you would want to invest in have a certain number of US parts. While people in the US think an AK is a piece of 3rd world junk, that's far from the truth. Prices for good AK-47s run around $500. The question of ammunition is important. While the .223 is at least used as a sporting round, 7.62 x 65 is less common in the US. As an investment piece in the US, I'd prefer an AR-15.

The discussion of ammunition brings up other alternatives. The Vulcan H/K SP89 Style is a semi-automatic copy of the MP5. It's a more expensive investment, running into as much as $1300 new. But, because it uses 9mm pistol ammunition, the rounds will probably be easier to get and cost a lot less. There are lots of folks, including the Germans and Israelis, who thought that 9mm is effective for automatic weapons --although there are different loadings.

The machine pistol is another weapon that is difficult to justify, so I predict it will receive the wrath of the bureaucrats. It has no stock and can be fired with one hand, so it is a "pistol." Even I find that a stretch, but there are "pistols" like this available in either .223 or 9mm for under $800, so it is an interesting investment.

My investment advice is to buy two identical weapons. Stay under $1000 for each in order to get the best percentage of appreciation and preserve liquidity. Fire one weapon and preserve the other one unfired. They both will appreciate. Buy ammunition in small lots and watch for legal limits on "hoarding". Don't play around with "pre restriction" weapons that came in before certain dates. The documentation can be bogus and get you into trouble both owning and selling. NEVER own or even investigate any parts needed to make semi-auto into auto. That's asking for big Federal trouble and really not necessary from any perspective.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Something you don't want to see

The right main gear wouldn't come down despite everything Bob did. Bob got great help and brought it down safely. There is surprisingly little damage.

Navion Pilot has a Bad Day

Just a few days ago (a short way down the Blog) I showed you the pictures of my friend Bob's great looking Navion. Ooops. Hope I didn't jinx him. Practically the next day he had a forced gear up landing. This was the smart kind of gear up landing as opposed to the not-so-smart kind. Here it is in Bob's words as told on our EAA Chapter Website:

Doing what you never wanted to do: flying to a gear-up landing.

It happened on my wife Georgette?s maiden voyage in my newly purchased Navion. I had flown the plane to Marathon from Mississippi on Thursday and Friday. On Sunday morning we flew to Key West for breakfast and then back to Marathon.

It was a clear VFR summer day. The trip to KEYW and back to KMTH seemed uneventful. We turned south after departing runway 9 Key West, and after some radio difficulties, contacted Navy departure and turned east for Marathon over the ocean.

Things went sour over the 7-mile bridge. I slowed and attempted to lower the landing gear for the approach. I went through my pre-landing check list and pulled the knob actuating the hydraulic system. Pressure came up, I dropped the gear control lever, but I saw only two green lights: for the nose and left main gear indicating down and locked. The right main indicator light ( which should have been green ) was blank and a red "UNSAFE" light glowed on the panel.

I re-cycled the gear and tried again, but the same indications appeared. Then I tried the emergency procedures printed on my panel. I depressed the emergency gear release lever. The right gear would not drop. I tried manually pumping the gear down. The right would not drop. I lost count of how many times I repeated the normal and emergency procedures. Same story: the gear indication lights still showed a problem with the right main.

The next action was to dive and climb in order to induce negative G? while attempting to drop the gear?same result. Complicating things, the negative G maneuvers frightened Georgette. But, she remained bravely quiet allowing me to concentrate on flying the plane.

The folks at the Crystal Clear Aviation FBO became a great support team. When I over-flew Marathon airport at 200 feet they all piled outside and confirmed that the right gear was indeed up. I made several more attempts to lower the gear and over-flew the runway again. Same story; the right gear stubbornly remained up. Passing beneath my wing, a Cessna 172 pilot re-confirmed my problem as we flew downwind for Runway 25, left traffic.

The Delta Daily from Atlanta was due in while all this was happening, so I was asked to delay landing until a commercial flight put down. I had plenty of fuel so there was no problem complying. Circling during the next quarter hour, I came to grips with the reality that I had to perform a gear-up landing. But How?

Virginia at Crystal Clear Aviation scrambled Tony D'Auito who is an A&P, Warbird pilot, and volunteer fireman. Tony combined everything I needed in one person and he did a great job of talking me through the options on the radio. Maybe it was the innumerable touch and goes I had performed in my 500 logged hours. Maybe it was the strength and integrity of the Navion I flew. I don?t know why, but I felt strangely calm and confident. I knew and accepted that the plane would be damaged. I believed that I could safely land and that Georgette and I would walk away.

The commercial jet landed and taxied to the terminal ramp. Emergency crews gathered alongside the runway. Flying downwind for runway 7 and talking things over with Tony, I decided to land with all the gear up rather than risk a dangerous spin on the runway with a two-wheel landing.

When I asked what I could expect to happen Tony told me I would hear some terrible noises; that the plane would go straight for a while and then I would lose control of it.

We discussed the option of shutting down the engine and coming in dead stick, but we generally agreed that cutting the power would change the handling characteristics of the plane and the way it would land. My decision was to simply fly the plane to a normal landing?as if I really had landing gear.

I throttled back to landing speed and lowered flaps then I turned base for runway 7. On short final, I focused on the runway markings and a landing aim-point . We slid the canopy partially back and turned off the fuel (there was plenty of gas in a central accumulator tank to provide landing power). I forgot to turn off the master switch. Fortunately that did not matter; we had neither flames nor fire. Over the runway, I flared the plane a little early, added power to avoid a partial stall and then landed smoothly. Georgette later remarked that it felt as though we had wheels, except for the noise.

We slid down the runway, the prop clattering, striking the ground. In the last few yards, as Tony predicted, I lost control of the plane. We veered right and came to a stop half-on and half-off the runway. A puff of smoke smelling of burning rubber came into the cabin. Later we learned that the main gear on both sides had dropped slightly and that we actually had landed on the sides of the tires.

We scrambled out of the plane and fire-rescue people led us away. Next came some very important comforting words, hugs, and handshakes from the people on the ground. The police drove us to the FBO where I gave a verbal account of the incident. Ironically, I learned that when the plane was lifted off the runway, the gear dropped into place. Go figure.

Later, I reported the incident to the Airport manager, the NTSB, the FSDO, and my insurance company.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Reaper Attack Drone is Fearless!

I remember that the Ryan "Firebee" drone support guys, who kept the drones flying at Tyndall AFB when we flew F-101s against them, had bumper stickers saying "Attack Drones are Fearless". That must have been 1972.

It took the USAF fighter pilot community a while to roll over into this century. Of course, new weapons helped. I doubt that these drones "roll in" on the target, drop at 500 feet, and then pull for the sky. They drop from well above the bullets and shells and fly in the ordinance.

I will say, however, that after recently talking to USAF F-16 and F-15 pilots flying active air defense, I want human eyes in the cockpit for that job. When you are 10 feet behind a drug-laden business jet in the dark of night looking in the windows to get intel on the passengers, that's when a satellite link won't do it.

Robot Attack Squadron Bound for Iraq

Associated Press July 16, 2007 BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq - The airplane is the size of a jet fighter, powered by a turboprop engine, able to fly at 300 mph and reach 50,000 feet. It's outfitted with infrared, laser and radar targeting, and with a ton and a half of guided bombs and missiles.

The Reaper is loaded, but there's no one on board. Its pilot, as it bombs targets in Iraq, will sit at a video console 7,000 miles away in Nevada.

The arrival of these outsized U.S. "hunter-killer" drones, in aviation history's first robot attack squadron, will be a watershed moment even in an Iraq that has seen too many innovative ways to hunt and kill.

That moment, one the Air Force will likely low-key, is expected "soon," says the regional U.S. air commander. How soon? "We're still working that," Lt. Gen. Gary North said in an interview.
The Reaper's first combat deployment is expected in Afghanistan, and senior Air Force officers estimate it will land in Iraq sometime between this fall and next spring. They look forward to it.
"With more Reapers, I could send manned airplanes home," North said.

The Associated Press has learned that the Air Force is building a 400,000-square-foot expansion of the concrete ramp area now used for Predator drones here at Balad, the biggest U.S. air base in Iraq, 50 miles north of Baghdad. That new staging area could be turned over to Reapers.

It's another sign that the Air Force is planning for an extended stay in Iraq, supporting Iraqi government forces in any continuing conflict, even if U.S. ground troops are drawn down in the coming years.

The estimated two dozen or more unmanned MQ-1 Predators now doing surveillance over Iraq, as the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, have become mainstays of the U.S. war effort, offering round-the-clock airborne "eyes" watching over road convoys, tracking nighttime insurgent movements via infrared sensors, and occasionally unleashing one of their two Hellfire missiles on a target.

From about 36,000 flying hours in 2005, the Predators are expected to log 66,000 hours this year over Iraq and Afghanistan.

The MQ-9 Reaper, when compared with the 1995-vintage Predator, represents a major evolution of the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV. At five tons gross weight, the Reaper is four times heavier than the Predator. Its size - 36 feet long, with a 66-foot wingspan - is comparable to the profile of the Air Force's workhorse A-10 attack plane. It can fly twice as fast and twice as high as the Predator. Most significantly, it carries many more weapons. While the Predator is armed with two Hellfire missiles, the Reaper can carry 14 of the air-to-ground weapons - or four Hellfires and two 500-pound bombs.

"It's not a recon squadron," Col. Joe Guasella, operations chief for the Central Command's air component, said of the Reapers. "It's an attack squadron, with a lot more kinetic ability."
"Kinetic" - Pentagon argot for destructive power - is what the Air Force had in mind when it christened its newest robot plane with a name associated with death.

"The name Reaper captures the lethal nature of this new weapon system," Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force chief of staff, said in announcing the name last September. General Atomics of San Diego has built at least nine of the MQ-9s thus far, at a cost of $69 million per set of four aircraft, with ground equipment.

The Air Force's 432nd Wing, a UAV unit formally established on May 1, is to eventually fly 60 Reapers and 160 Predators. The numbers to be assigned to Iraq and Afghanistan will be classified.

The Reaper is expected to be flown as the Predator is - by a two-member team of pilot and sensor operator who work at computer control stations and video screens that display what the UAV "sees." Teams at Balad, housed in a hangar beside the runways, perform the takeoffs and landings, and similar teams at Nevada's Creech Air Force Base, linked to the aircraft via satellite, take over for the long hours of overflying the Iraqi landscape.

American ground troops, equipped with laptops that can download real-time video from UAVs overhead, "want more and more of it," said Maj. Chris Snodgrass, the Predator squadron commander here.

The Reaper's speed will help. "Our problem is speed," Snodgrass said of the 140-mph Predator. "If there are troops in contact, we may not get there fast enough. The Reaper will be faster and fly farther."

The new robot plane is expected to be able to stay aloft for 14 hours fully armed, watching an area and waiting for targets to emerge. "It's going to bring us flexibility, range, speed and persistence," said regional commander North, "such that I will be able to work lots of areas for a long, long time."

The British also are impressed with the Reaper, and are buying three for deployment in Afghanistan later this year. The Royal Air Force version will stick to the "recon" mission, however - no weapons on board.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Navion Comes to Marathon

A Really Cool Airplane in the Keys
Lots of things make you what you are. I grew up watching and listening to Arthur Godfrey. Arthur was an amateur radio operator (there are great stories about his work with Curtis LeMay in designing the Strategic Air Command comm systems that I ran as a 2nd Lieutenant) and a pilot, so he hooked me twice. One of the planes Arthur flew and talked about was the Navion.

Later, I saw Navions at events like Sun-N-Fun and always marveled at the size, capacity, and beauty of the airplane. They were made by Ryan Aviation after WWII. Wikipedia has a nice history of the airplane.

My friend Bob Silber brought his Navion home to the Marathon airport yesterday. Sliding canopy, retractable gear, constant speed prop, tip tanks, and a big engine. It has more than you'd find in a Bonanza and it looks (way) cooler.
Bob's airplane has a modern IFR panel and a great new interior. Everything looks and smells fresh and new.

Scads of room in all seats! Storage too.
One of my favorite authors, W.E.B. Griffin, relates how Douglas MacArthur, who was 5' 11" but seemed a lot taller, had an L-17 (Navion) that he was flown around in during the Korean War period.

Ah yes, I am envious. What a great practical airplane. Congratulations, Bob!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I Bought Myself a New Knife!

I got my first Victorinox knife as a gift from the Governor of the Dutch side of the Island of St. Maartin in 1968. I carried it around the world for a couple of decades. It was about 1972 when Japanese security guards stopped me at a commercial airport and taped it shut with Scotch Tape before they let me on the flight! The Japanese respected edged weapons well before the employment of the box cutter as a WMD. The tape was... symbolic.

My next Victorinox was a gift from an investment company with whom I left great amounts of money. (Damn you Cisco stock!) I carried it until 9/11. Just after that, anyone who even contemplated a sharp instrument was in jeopardy.

But, as a private pilot, boater, and diver I don't have to worry about TSA. So, I set out to get myself an appropriate pocket knife. There are just under a zillion models of the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. Some of them are whimpy and some of them are so chunky that they're a joke. But this one, the One-Hand Trekker, is absolutely the best gift for any guy. You can buy this as a gift and be confident that it is not under-kill or over-kill.
Forget about a cork screw. That is not a requirement for most guys. But, a toothpick sure is! Besides, most of these knives trade-off a corkscrew for a Phillips screwdriver... one or the other... and believe me, the Phillips is a LOT more useful! The saw blade can cut a rope or cut you out of a canopy. After a LOT of research, this is the one I bought and it's the one you'll want!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Wildfire: A Book by Nelson DeMille

Nelson DeMille is rising to the top of my list of favorite authors. He is technically competent (I don't mean his writing... that's good... but I mean he uses technology in his stories in appropriate ways!) His characters display a sense of humor that I love and his stories stick together. Wild Fire is a good read for any guy. It's about an NYPD cop in a post-911 world who comes up against right-wing wackos while looking for Islamo-wackos.
I highly recommend it as a gift. And, if you are looking for more great gifts for guys, be sure to see (or have your wife see) my many recommendations at this Website.

Killing Off the Keep-Alive on My Dynon D180

Dynon Keep Alive -- Update -- 4th of July family visits kept me from making the trip to the airport. But, finally I drove the 45 minutes and soaked in the sun while removing the canopy and removing the fuse from the Dynon Keep-alive. Then I flew for 90 minutes. Sorry to report that the backup battery still didn't show any sign of charge. But, it could well need more flight time. What an excuse for flying!

Now, Why Didn't I Think of That?

This device is a stock for a pistol with a cleverly mounted mirror. Slide your favorite powerful sidearm into the stock and fire around the corner. I've seen weapons modified to shoot around corners with a bend in the barrel, but I've always thought, "What a kludge!"

Yes, the Pivoshhot is is probably tough to hold steady, but it's a lot better than sticking your head out! Mainly, you want the other guy to poke his head back in so you can use maneuver to get him. Wonder if you can see a red dot in the mirror? Okay, I don't need this to shoot rats, but it's a cool tactical device and I wish I'd have thought of it!

Water in the Fuel -- Tighten the cap!

Why is this av-gas so cloudy?

Ah yes, the value of checking your fuel every time you fly! The floating plastic piece in my fuel sampler has a specific gravity lighter than water and heavier than av gas, so if there is water in the sample, the yellow cap floats on the water. Of course, the cloudiness and absence of blue dye are two other good clues that I had a lot of water in my left tank. This sample was taken after a recent heavy rain and the water was only present in the left tank.

The cure is to simply snug up that lock nut on the bottom of the fuel cap. But, of course, you can't over-do it. In my case, it only took about 1/4 turn. If you get it too tight the flip lever won't go down and/or you won't be able to turn the key to lock it. Lock it? With fuel over $4 / gal, you betcha. Besides, locking the cap is a good way to prevent mischief.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Tying Down Your Plane

At our local EAA chapter (Marathon Ch 1241) , July is the slowest month. So, the discussion over morning coffee at the buzzard's roost (where we sit and grade landings.... a whole 'nother story) has turned to tying down airplanes. That's appropriate since we're in the potentially "windy" (AKA Hurricane) season in the Keys.
As an aside, over the years we've had more damage in Marathon to airplanes IN hangars than to those tied out. Mainly because of hangar doors collapsing onto airplanes. Also, the last "event" we had was a flood, so indoor and outdoor planes suffered equally from rising salt water.
The first thing most of us do is to install our own ropes at the tiedown spots. You can't trust those little 1/2" or 3/8" hunks of stiff rope provided by the FBO. I use the biggest rope that will go through the eyebolts on the plane. I use what we call "yacht braid" because it stays supple and, as you'll see, you can make a good knot.
Ah, the topic of knots. In this discussion we'll turn to a great source of expert and easy to understand information, the Army Field Manuals. (I kid you not. FMs explain everything (see here) and explain it well!) US Army Field Manual 5-125 explains rigging techniques. Chapter 2, (CLICK HERE) gives great descriptions of and diagrams for knots. I don't care if you are a Boy Scout or a Bosun, FM 5-125 can teach you something about knots.
Most pilots learn to use a series of half hitches to secure the ropes to the airplane in an attempt to hold down the tail and wings. But, is the half hitch good enough? As the Field Manual states, "...It will hold against the pull on the standing part of the rope;however, it is not a secure hitch." (Note the nice use of a semicolon in this Army writing!) Later, the Manual makes the point that the series of half hitches needs "constant tension on the rope" to be effective. If the airplane starts rocking, rolling, and flexing in the wind, there will not be constant tension on every rope all the time.
You can push the half hitches together and create a clove hitch. This is better, but it can still come loose and it's much harder to untie if the rope is tight. That's a pain. I think the best answer is the Fisherman's Bend.
The Fisherman's Bend requires you to put the rope through the eye twice, but that's quite possible with soft braided rope. (AKA Yacht Braid)
Then, throw a half-hitch into the end of the rope to keep it neat. This works well and you can easily untie it.

You can even print off a diagram showing how to tie the Fisherman's bend at link above. This is an efficient and effective way to tie down your airplane. Give it a try!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Good Gun Lock

You must have a gun lock for each gun. This is an excellent gun lock from Master Lock. You can set and re-set the combination. This is ever so much better than trying to track keys.


Our Crosman T4 BB/ Pellet pistol arrived and it’s had its first night looking for rats in the woods. It did a real fine job, but there are a few things you should know about the pistol before you order it.

The first question was, “Can a person who is far-sighted (one with “mature eyes”) use the Crosman Red Dot Sight? The answer is “Yes!”, the red dot superimposes over the image in the sight and you do not have to focus close up.

But, I will say that a Red Dot Sight works best if you learned to shoot with both eyes open as I did in the military. The one-eyed squinting shooter will take a long time to acquire the target through this site, but with two eyes it’s easy. For target shooting and plinking, the Red Dot Sight that comes with the Crosman T4 Tactical is probably better than a laser site and it beats the daylights out of open sights.

Unfortunately, this gun has a strong trigger pull. But, all of the BB pistols I’ve tried recently have strong trigger pulls. Think of it as training for real double-action shooting.

I was curious about the flat magazine system for BBs and pellets that Crosman built into the T4, but it’s very smooth. This magazine system sure beats trying to feed the BBs down a little hole and it gives you automatic feed of pellets – not one at a time. Push down on a lever and the received snaps open. Dump out the old mag, drop in a new one, snap back the slide, and you’ve got 8 rounds ready to go. Loading a magazine takes seconds, but you’d be smart to buy a spare 3-pack of magazines.

The Crosman Tactical Flashlight is a flamethrower for its size. You can use it mounted or handheld and it comes with a pressure pad actuator so you can choose to only turn it on for short intervals. I love good flashlights.

This kit, gun+sight+light, provides a lot of value. Highly recommended for punching holes in paper targets, aluminum cans, or rats.

Click Here to buy!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Flying with Pants On

The topic of an increase in speed from wheel pants has been analyzed down to the microscopic level on discussion groups such as the Grumman Gang. With a Grumman, which does not have a steerable nose wheel, the primary benefit of fairings seems to be to keep the nose wheel straight. We Zodiac 601XL drivers don't face that challenge.

Here are some some conclusions I've drawn over the years of reading about and flying with and without wheel pants:

* I note from photo archives of the Reno Air Races that if professional air racers didn't have retractable gear they had pants. I bet they tested and proved their worth.

* Not all wheel pants are created equal. For example, DMA claims their pants (for Grummans) are significantly better than any other design. That debate still rages, but clearly what can be said of one set of pants might not fit into another set of pants.

* They make the airplane look spiffy! I believe that eye-candy is their primary benefit. In my mind, any discussion of pants on a 601 is primarily about cool looks and the extra knots (or not) is the excuse.

* If you have a flat tire on landing, you can litter the runway with expensive fiberglass. And, I had a flat tire on my 3rd landing in my 601. Bad tube or bad installation? One of the other. But, the fact is that everything would have been a lot worse / expensive if I had pants on the 601

* Preflight is much harder. Checking the air / filling with air is much more difficult.

* IF you are not the "mechanic", " certificate holder" etc (depending on the class) and can't take off your own pants, then the annual is more expen$ive by an hour or more.

* They add some weight. In a 601 it's almost always about weight more than speed.

So, in my case I chose to go pantless. Yes, my 601 would look cooler with pants, but the benefits overcome the gains.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sunset on Summer Solstice (Click pix)

Here is the sun setting over the NE end of Crane Key. With an Egret waiting for its supper.