Monthly Archives: April 2013

“He May Be An SOB But He’s Our SOB”

The quote was attributed to Franklin Roosevelt, in 1939, when someone asked him about the wisdom of supporting Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza – who ran Nicaragua (with a 3 year interruption) from 1937 to 1956.

And we have had an ongoing dilemma – between our interests and our ideals. What’s the threshold between supporting a less-than-democratic leader and abandoning them?  We certainly wouldn’t support a regime like that in North Korea, with millions starving.

A generation ago I can remember reading about the human-rights abuses of the Shah of Iran – but Iran was a lynch pin in our Middle East strategy. As far as I know Iran was the only country given the F14. And, that was because of a personal request of the Shah to President Nixon – a Soviet MiG (the mavF14d would probably know the exact nomenclature but I think it was a 24) – was making regular recon incursions and it took a Tomcat to shoot it down.

It was said (primarily by those of the Left in the West) that the supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini were “democratic reformers”.

Think of the consequences to the West in sponsored terrorism after a generation of these democratic reformers.

How much could we have influenced? And should we be trying to influence outcomes in key countries (we aren’t talking about truly democratic countries but 1 dictator vs another).

I don’t have the answers – but know the consequences are far reaching for whatever we do.

I don’t even know if the issue is a left vs right issue –

Will we be talking about the consequences of the Egyptian Revolution a generation from now? It was Anwar Sadat who gave a generation of peace between Egypt and Israel. Hosni Mubarak was his Vice President and in the same stands when Sadat was assassinated. Like the Shah a generation earlier, Mubarak was “thrown under the bus” by the current administration.

Could a more active support have made a difference? I don’t have the answer, but the effects of this revolution are not yet evident.

While this has been on my mind for a long time, a discussion Bill O’Reilly had with Brit Hume  last night prompted this post – about Hamid Karzai, the head of Afghanistan.

A lot of brave Americans have died or been maimed fighting this war, to keep out the Taliban and a base for al Queda out.

And we are giving the head of Afghanistan backpacks of cash to remain “our friend”?


Filed under Politics

Mc Donnell Douglas YC-15 (part 3)

Parts 1 and 2.

Aerial delivery tests, as part of further operational demonstrations were conducted at China Lake, CA  using dummies for static-line drop tests. Cargo drops with 5000lb to 20,000lb were also conducted from an altitude of about 4750ft. The heaviest drop was a 28,243lb load of CDS containers. The primary result of the drop tests found the troop door was too narrow.

The YC-15 also tested mid air refueling as both a tanker and receiver in May-June 1976. 102 hookups were made with a KC-135. Fuel transfer to the receiver was found to be slow (partly because the UARRSI was not designed for the aircraft). Trails of the YC-15 potential tanker aircraft used Navy and Marine Corps aircraft fly a position slightly below and behind the aircraft to simulate the probe-and-drogue method of aerial refueling.

images 2

One of the YC-15 aircraft receives fuel from a USAF KC-135.

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A YC-15 acts as a tanker with a Navy F-14 Phantom flying in the “tanker-box.”

On 15 to 17 December 1975 YC-15 876 tested ground loading of Army vehicles.


An AH-1 Cobra being loading aboard a YC-15.


A McDonnell Douglas advertisement for the YC-15 showing an M-109 at the rear cargo door.

Overall the YC-15 was found to be a good airplane but had marginal maintainability. 2 of the biggest issues were was engine maintenance and the flight control system.  Naturally the YC-15 was going to have maintenance issues because it, like all research aircraft, was intended to test technology and not necessarily representative of an optimized “production-type” aircraft (I remind the reader to a look at the differences between the YF-22 and F-22).  Phase 1 tests ended in 18 August 1976. By then both aircraft accumulated 226 flights over 472.8 hours. The YC-15 demonstrated an ability to fly as slow as 62kt to a fast as Mach .78. The initial phases of flight test validates EBF as a valid solution to the STOL problem.

Phase II of the AMST program for the YC-15 began on 7 September 1976. Both aircraft underwent a number of modifications including having a CFM-56 turbofan engine installed on the #4 engine pylon. The wingspan was extended by 22.3ft as a result the wing area went from 367ft2 to 2107ft2! A fighter-type stick was also installed.


Previously shown picture of the YC-15 showing the installed CFM-56 engine on the #4 engine pylon.

On the software side, aircraft 876 had a number of modifications installed including a thrust management system (required because of the increased thrust of the CFM-56) (TMS), an Engine Failure Detection System (EFDS), a digital SCAS and the VAM was improved with a flight director indicator.

Phase 2 testing resumed 12 February 1977 and resulted in 49 sorties for 125.6 flight hours. 876 also went on a tour to NATO member nations in Europe.

In Phase III testing aircraft 875 was returned to original configuration but had a Gross Weight Selector (GWS). The GWS would calculate the optimum flap angle for a given gross weight at various flight conditions. The DLC was improved to operated with and engine out on final approach. All these modifications (including the increased aspect ratio of the wing) resulted in a 10kt reduction in approach speed. The final tally for Phase III testing included 416 flights over 796.3 hours total for both aircraft.

By February 1978 both YC-15s were placed into storage at Edwards AFB.

Part IV will detail the technological contributions the YC-15 made to the C-17 program and the return to flight of the YC-15 in support of that program.

Cross-posted at Bring The Heat, Bring The Stupid.


Filed under Aeronautical Engineering, Air Force, Airplanes, Flying, History, Plane Pr0n, USAF

McDonnell Douglas YC-15 (part 2)

Part one is a general description of the YC-15 aircraft. You can view that here. This post will detail the flight test program of the YC-15.

There were 2 YC-15 aircraft,serials 72-01875 and 72-01876. 875 was rolled on 5 August 1975. The first flight was 26 August 1975. 875 flew from the Douglas plant in Long Beach, CA to Edwards AFB. The only problem during this 2.5 hour flight was a landing gear door found to be ajar. The flight itself was therefore speed limited to 200kts at 20,000ft.

875 flew 3 times over the next 3 days, conducting general flight envelope verification and expansion tests. A further 2 weeks were conducting 7 air-worthiness flights. On 12 September, 875 moved to a Douglas Aircraft Company (DAC) test facility at Yuma, AZ.

876 flew for the first time on 5 December 1975. This flight took the aircraft from Long Beach, CA to join 875 at Yuma AZ.

The YC-15 Joint Test Force (JTF) personnel from the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC), Air Force Test and Evaluation Center (AFTEC), McDonnell Douglas, Boeing (for the YC-14). The (Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC), Tactical Air Command (TAC), Army and the USMC played minor logistical roles in the flight test program. NASA also sent (short take-off and landing (STOL) engineers to analyse data gleaned in the AMST program. The core pilot cadre for the YC-15 was made up of 3 contractors, 3 AFFTC and 3 AFTEC pilots. The competing aircraft were housed in separate hangars with the JTF office between the 2 contactors. This became the model for both the ATF and JSF programs.

The consensus amongst the test pilots and crews was that the YC-15 had generally good handling qualities. The aircraft was easy to fly with the SCAS off and on. There was concern that the pilot could overload the aircraft with the SCAS off but control forces were considered light in both modes.

There was some discussion on whether or not the YC-15 should have a stick or yoke for control input.  The intention was to have a “fighter-type” stick installed but there was some skepticism over it’s suitability from higher up the chain-of-command so the stick was removed. To counter, it was argued that the yoke obscured the view of the instrument panel.

The YC-15 had no natural warning upon entering the stall (i.e. vibration) so warning for the stall relied on an artificial “stick-shaker” to provide some warning within the critical angle of attack. This was judged as an inadequate solution because the shaker could activate in conditions of high thrust and flap settings when the aircraft clearly wasn’t in a stalling condition and because a high stink rate (such as during a STOL landing) could mask stalling conditions. As such, a Supplemental Stall Recognition System (SSRS) was developed and tested during the program. The SSRS provided an aural warning when the aircraft approached critical alpha during a given flight condition.


At gross weights of 149,300 the YC-15 flew STOL approaches at 87kts at a 6 degree glideslope giving a sink rate of 15.4 degrees per second. Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) approaches were normally made a 127 kts with a typical 8-12 feet per second sink rate with no flare at touch down. In STOL mode the aim-point for touch down was about 300 feet from the runway threshold . The YC-15 tested both flare and no-flare landing techniques in STOL mode. Testing at Edwards AFB showed the YC-15 was unable to land consistently in “hot-and-high” conditions in the required 2000 feet because of the slow actuation of the thrust reversers.

The thrust reversers could be used in-flight with some minor airframe buffet.

Testing the VAM, used approaches very similar to Navy carrier approaches were airspeed on approach is governed by angle of attack. The major issue was that the VAM didn’t display enough information to enable a completely “eyes-out-of-cockpit” approach.

33 STOL and CTOL off field demo landings, at Edwards, were conducted on 5000ft x 200ft runways with markers placed at 2000ft x 60ft. 5 pilots flew these tests and the YC-15s landing gear tire pressure was reduced. It was also found that the YC-15 could taxi over a 4-inch dump at 75-80kts. A unique procedures for the YC-15 during a STOL takeoff was extending the flaps from 14 to 23 degrees during the takeoff roll. Below is some archive video of STOL testing in 1975 (please pardon the music, Creed’s “Higher” just doesn’t work IMO):

During testing cracks were found in the blown flap material and fasteners had to replaced on a cracked rob. This was due to repeated exposure of hot jet exhaust. Direct Lift Control (DLC) (*see update below) was found to be effective for corrected high approach errors in the glide-slope but wasn’t effective for getting too low during approach. Flight path correction was done with a slightly high arrival at glideslope,correct with DLC, and then add thrust.  Maximum DLC deflection angle was 20 degrees from flush on the upper surface of the wing. Orientation of the DLC actuation in the cockpit was a major “human factors” issue of debate among the pilots.

The YC-15 displayed docile engine out characteristics with mild crew indication 4-6 seconds after an engine out occurred. The YC-15 also was unable to meet the range requirement of 2600nm. The aircraft had more drag than predicted giving it a range of 1760nm.

I’ll be standing fast on this post for now. I’m splitting part 2 into this and an additional part detailing some of the operational and international demonstrations as well as technical improvements and further flight test results.

Cross posted at Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid.

*[UPDATE]: For reader that may not know, direct lift control (DLC) is a system of spoilers, located on the upper surface of the wing. that either differentially control roll and in unison control pitch by dumping lift from the wings. They are common to most airliners.


Filed under Aeronautical Engineering, Air Force, Airplanes, Flying, History, Plane Pr0n, Uncategorized, USAF

My Army Introduction To Germany

It’s funny – next year will mark the 40th year since I was discharged from Ft Jackson, SC.

And having the advantage (and, as I have grown older, a realization), the gift, of old age, I am putting things in perspective.

At the time, I thought WW2 was ancient history. But it had ended only 28 years earlier from my arrival.

During the Cold War, service in Germany was primarily an Army/Air Force thing – at the time, close to 400,000 served there. Now there is but a handful.

The Army, after the war, took over the posts (caserns) that the Wehrmacht had.

I don’t think anyone thought, in 1945, that they would have been there for as long as they were.

While going into the Army wasn’t my initial idea (and like Busbob’s remembrance of of George Jones, this Command Sgt Major’s retirement kind of shook me up – he was drafted in the same group as me – Sep 72 – the 2nd to the last group – my Army time to me is one of the highlights of my life – even as a lowly Spec/4 (that is E4 to the rest of you).

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss the camaraderie.

I thought you would like to see a few of these pictures.

By the way, the way I got to Germany was a bit odd – at my school at Ft Bliss, TX, all of the graduation class from “E”s to the “Z”‘s were sent to the DMZ in Korea, manning Army Air Defense facilities.

There were 5 of us in bureaucratic limbo.

Three of us didn’t care where we would be assigned, we just wanted an assignment. So we bugged this civilian bureaucrat on base every day.

On the 3rd visit, he said “Don’t come in any more – I’ll send you 3 to Germany.”

Which, I’ll admit, was a pretty nice assignment.

The remaining 2 stayed at Ft Bliss doing who-knows-what.

Anyway the first thing most incoming soldiers saw after landing at Rhein-Main was the Gutleut Kaserne – which was used by the Nazis to house allied POWs (or so I heard)


While I was in Army Air Defense, I didn’t know where I would be stationed until a couple of days later – Got on a chartered bus and headed down the Autobahn to Kaiserslatern (called K-Town by the GIs) – at the Kleber Kaserne.


Note the Nazi Eagle (without head) and the chipped out swastika above the entry…

My first station was at an old radar station overlooking Ramstein AFB – my barracks were up a hill in Landstuhl – 5-7 miles away – site of the premier military hospital – but the barracks were an old Luftwaffe barracks built to last the “1000 year Reich ” – only the designers didn’t expect the foundation to crumble 28 years later.

You could roll a ball down the floor….Word was the Air Force turned it down but it was OK for the Army 😉

Built to house 100s, there were about 20-30 of us here.

The real action as far as my MOS was concerned, was a mini-NORAD type bunker about 50-60  miles northwest. Code-named Lima, it was one of 3 such bunkers in Germany. It was staffed by an equal number of US Air Force and German Luftwaffe, and about 20 of us Army types. (The Air Force, for some strange reason, always wants to keep an eye on us Army Air Defense types in case the ground to air missiles go up 😉 ) I volunteered to go there a few months later.

We would take an Air Force bus up at the start of a 24 hour shift and by the end – living in near darkness for 24 hours, I felt like a gopher coming back up – No pictures allowed there, but it was  perfectly camouflaged from the top – guarded by the Germans. (who, naturally, were amused by my last name which happened to be the same name as the then-chancellor).

I went back there in 1992, and a young German guard said that it was scheduled to be closed.

With the benefit of time I have realized that the war wasn’t that distant at the time – here’s a picture of the remnants of the Siegfried Line – Germany’s answer to France’s Maginot Line – during the closing months of the war, Patton just ran around it I believe.


…Probably all gone now….

A few more pictures of my Germany Army Days…

A Bit of Barracks Life, 1973

Images of Bavaria 1973

Europe in B & W 1973-1974

London, 1974


Filed under Army, History

Progress on the Yard

I did some puttering today.

Among The Joshua Trees


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Filed under Uncategorized

Now the race is on…

Now the race is on and here comes pride in the backstretch, heartache goin’ to the inside…

I first heard this George Jones tune in a fraternity brother’s room. It was the late 60’s and country music was not “in” the way it is today. The Rolling Stones, the Mamas and the Papas, the Beatles, the Monkees, and many other pop groups took first place in the music world.

Don’t know why the lyrics to George’s song stayed with me all these years. I can still picture my fraternity brother’s room on the campus, it was never a bastion of neatness. Drew was never a bastion of anything but party on, brother. His focus in life was golf and beer. Or was it beer and golf?

Maybe that’s why George Jones’ death brought back thoughts about life and what it brings to us, and what it doesn’t bring. George lived a life that was out of control at times. Drew was the same, and he beat George to the finish line.

Drew was an alcoholic. Took me three tries with the spell checker to get that word right. I didn’t know he was one, most everybody in our fraternity would not know the difference between an alkie and an average college kid in the 60’s. We partied, partied a lot, drank heavily. Most of us saved the party part until the weekends. Drew didn’t. Anytime after noon or so you could find Drew in his room, an open beer bottle on the desk and George Jones records lettin’ loose tune after tune on the stereo. The door was always open, there was always a beer in the fridge. George and Drew had something in common.  Booze and a life out of control at times. The story of Drew driving home for a holiday once was legendary. He was pulled over for erratic driving, turns out he had consumed more than a few of the beers in the case he bought before leaving school to go home. The sheriff bluntly told him he’d been drinking. Drew’s candid response (“No #$%*, sheriff!”) caught the sheriff by surprise, so much so that the sheriff didn’t give him a ticket but instead escorted Drew all the way into the next county. Home.

Could it be that our generation was faced with Viet Nam and the implications that falling out of college meant in those days? Flunk out, lose the college deferment, go to the front of the line for service in ‘Nam. Not a popular war, not a popular topic amongst the college crowd, and a source of fear to many. Could it be that the pressure was there to perform, keep the grades on the passing side, keep the army out of the picture, no matter what? Was that the reason for the liquid dependence?

Or could it be that just the pressure of life was too much for some? Maybe for Drew?

I don’t know. Lost track of him after college, only to have his name come up one day 40 years or so later, when a friend of ours mentioned they were from a small town in Texas. Drew’s home town. Where? I asked, I have a fraternity brother from there, did you know Drew?

Yes, same high school class, was the response, followed by did you know about him and his life?

No, what happened, I asked.

Maybe I shouldn’t have asked, the story was tragic. Too much alcohol, lost jobs, a stint as high school coach, a bank robbery, or maybe it was just an attempt, prison time, a lost and dissolute life, a wreckage of a family, and finally a lonely death on a New Year’s Eve a decade ago.  His death went unnoticed for days, no one went looking for him.

No one missed him.

I passed the news on to my fraternity brothers five years after his death and not one of them knew of his passing on. Most of us go in one direction, our lives are predictable, we don’t know or understand what hurts inside others and makes life misfire. I wonder what demons turned Drew down the wrong road.

George Jones’ death made me think of Drew again.

Now the race is on and here comes pride in the backstretch, heartache goin’ to the inside…

…and the winner loses all…


Filed under In Memoriam, Other Stuff, Uncategorized

Prolly Old News To Most Lexicans…

… in that the majority of us already read The Duffel Blog.  But here’s a sample, just in case the blog is new to you.

From The Duffel Blog…

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Officials from the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles have confirmed approval of a new policy making it mandatory for all active-duty and military veterans to register their status with the agency. The move will require all veterans to have a special “Vet” designation on their drivers’ licenses and state identification cards.


“We’ve seen what these savages are capable of all over CNN and MSNBC,” says DMV director, Greg Olson. “Out of all the millions of men and women who have deployed to combat zones this past decade, there are literally a dozen, perhaps even two,  who have come home and committed atrocious acts. That’s way too big a chance. We can’t risk having these people hidden in our community and will be making sure they’re easily identifiable to law enforcement personnel and citizens in general.”

The new strategy will most likely result in changed police escalation-of-force procedure when dealing with veterans during routine traffic stops.

According to Olson, law enforcement officers will be given more opportunity to defend themselves against a perceived threat.

“Phase One will consist of the officer identifying an individual’s vet status on his or her driver’s license,” he says. “Once the officer realizes what he or she is dealing with, Phase Two will kick in and they will immediately unsheathe their pistol and drawdown on the potential psychopath. Then, at Phase Three, the officer will be given free reign to search the individual’s vehicle for weapons and dead bodies. If, and only if, the officer doesn’t find anything, then he will subsequently release the veteran and thank them for their service.”

RTWT.  The WSJ, among others*, have praised the Duffel Blog’s satire as cutting edge, and it most certainly IS.
Good stuff, Maynard.

* “others” includes a number of general officers, not the least o’ which is retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis

Cross-posted from EIP.


Filed under Good Stuff, Humor