Author Archives: msgtbuck

There’s First Class… and Then There’s This

Part of a post I put up at EIP this morning:

An altogether different flying experience… which would be a suite at 30K feet.  A couple o’ screen caps from a VERY interesting article:


This piece might be the most extensively-documented photographic essay I’ve ever seen, on any subject.  See “What It’s Like to Fly the $23,000 Singapore Airlines Suites Class” here.  It’s simply freaking amazing; the food alone might be worth the ticket price.


Filed under Flying, Other Stuff

Some Nice Plane Pr0n

Who knew they did airshows at NIGHT!?!

(Cross-posted from EIP)

1 Comment

Filed under Plane Pr0n

Warbird Restoration

There’s a great article about restoring old warbirds in this month’s issue of Air Force Magazine.  Here are the lede grafs and a screen-shot of one of the article’s accompanying pics:


The scarcity of some World War II airframes today drives a small industry that can take what can only be described as airplane DNA and deliver a restored, flying aircraft. Restoration technology now makes it feasible to resurrect historic aircraft from little more than dented scraps of metal.

A striking example of this artistry is one Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk that survived a crash landing in 1942 to emerge as an award-winning restoration indistinguishable from the day it rolled off the Curtiss assembly line in 1941. The restoration shunned the iconic, but now ubiquitous, “Flying Tiger” shark’s mouth paint scheme to create instead a rugged-looking US Army Air Corps fighter of the type that rose to meet Japanese warplanes over Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The Tomahawk’s odyssey began when it was earmarked for the British Royal Air Force and then transferred to the Soviet Union in December 1941. Identified with the RAF number AK295, it was technically a Tomahawk IIB—essentially equivalent to the USAAC’s P-40C.

The text version of the article is here but I recommend reading the PDF version for the photos.


Filed under Air Force, History, Other Stuff

Seasonal Lex

One of my favorite posts…

A good day

By lex, on December 16th, 2007

Yesterday I had set two main tasks before myself: I would complete the chapter outline of my revised thesis proposal and fill in the somewhat astonishingly numerous employment documents sent to me so that I can get paid to fly on weekends. Neither task required much intellectual effort – just putting the time in.

At 0930, while your correspondent was enjoying his second cup of coffee and lounging about in what he likes to consider his Saturday morning slops, the Hobbit peeled an invite off the fridge and reminded him that a shipmate’s retirement would be in 30 minutes – had he forgotten, at all? Was he concerned?

He was.

The retirement was to be aboard the USS Peleliu at the 32nd Street Naval Base. A good 30 minutes away from these our humble lodgings at a lope and of course it was to be expected that your humble scribe would arrive with all due pomp and circumstance, a-wearing of his very best service dress blue rig. As opposed to Saturday morning slops.

When I was a plebe midshipman, one of the more drearily effective forms of harassment was the “uniform race.” We’d be called out into the commons in the uniform of the day and then required and desired to dash back up the several flights of stairs in order to return to our rooms and expeditiously – but accurately – change into a new and usually unfamiliar uniform and race back to the assembly area in order to present ourselves for inspection. Doesn’t sound like much, but it did tend to go on and you didn’t want to be late: The last three mids to join formation always got “special attention” from the upperclass and woe betide those who had omitted some niggling detail in dress or accessory. The first would be forced to either strain away at push ups in the unkind Summer heat and humidity or else repeatedly hurl themselves into the bulkhead on either side of the hall “sounding off” name, rate and class. Inattentives would have to “brace up” – an extreme form of attention with the chin pulled painfully back into the neck, with shoulders thrust aft and spine erect while jogging through the corridors shouting to all and sundry, “Look at me, I’m imprecise!” I can assure you that it is far more entertaining to observe than perform.

Not quite 30 years later though, this form of “training” paid off – and not for the first time. In moments (about 3.5 minutes, actually) I had shed my layabouts, was dressed in a fashion befitting my state and was hurtling down the freeway hell-bent for leather, shaving as I went. I got aboard the ship only one minute late, which ordinarily might as well have been a year but thankfully I didn’t have a speaking part, and the people gathered there were many. I waved the startled quarterdeck watch away from the ship’s bell with emphatic sideway gestures of my right hand, lowered to the waist – no honors, for God’s sake – and found a spot in the back to watch the ceremony mostly unobserved.

My friend had been the executive officer of the local NROTC unit, serving the University of San Diego, San Diego State, UCSD and Point Loma – Nazarene University. His retirement was preceded by the commissioning of a bushel of young men and women in four pecks – eight new ensigns, three officers of Marines, two Army second lieutenants and a pair of bus drivers Air Force officers. Young. Frightfully young.

There is a rhythm to such things as familiar as the liturgy: A call to attention for the national anthem, followed by a priestly benediction and the parading of the colors. After that, some commanding officer of something of something or other reads a (hopefully) brief introduction to the Exalted Being who has been invited to do the Actual Speech. The young people are both congratulated for their hard work thus far and sternly admonished of the gravity of the tasks before them. The Republic is counting on you. You personally. Savvy?

Jolly good.

Oaths are read and repeated back, identifying insignia of rank attached or revealed, the Marines are ensworded with their Mamelukes, first salutes are exchanged for a silver dollar (the first you pay for, the rest you must earn), we pray a bit more, or pretend to – while thinking about the fight still waiting for all those smooth cheeks – and then break up to mill around the canapes and bug juice.

But linger, yet a while. My shipmate, one of those “mariners and souls that had toiled, and wrought, and thought with me– that ever with a frolic welcome took the thunder and the sunshine, and opposed free hearts, free foreheads,” was laying it all by after 22 years of the faithful, standing down even as a cohort of the young and the restless stood to. It needed a moment or two of official things read aloud, kind words and a short speech condensing two decades of hard work, achievement and sacrifice before it could be considered rightly complete. Afterwards we shook hands, spoke briefly, promised to play that game of golf we keep promising to play and I walked off the ship to sound of four bells and “Captain, United States Navy, departing.”

It was a far more pleasant stroll down the mole than it had been a dash up it. Time to cast a professionally searching gaze across the hulls on either side and be quietly pleased to see nothing objectionable. Lines and ratguards just as they should have been, watches on deck, nothing but the least hint of a stain here or there, and that hard by a discharge vent. You never get it all.

A beautiful San Diego day, the sky so blue you wanted to drink from it. Ships. Ships and sailors, the sound and the sky. I had so missed it. It’ll be PowerPoint slides again on Monday.

Upon returning home I found that the house was left to myself and the Kat and after a brief discussion it was decided that Bronx Pizza in Hillcrest would be just the thing to set it right. On a whim passing the 8 we changed destination to Dave and Buster’s – where the food is good and young people are groomed to someday be compulsive gamblers. Dave and Busters, besides being a restaurant and gaming area is also a place fiercely resistant to being conventionally discovered. We always stumble over it while thinking ourselves lost and about to swing about for another pass – a sort of modern-day Brigadoon.

The Kat thought that appetizers alone would be just thing, and who was I to disagree? She had root beer, I had a Guinness and betwixt the two of us we had convo – horses mostly, she does the talking – and a ret good time. She’s 13 you know, and you have to treasure times like that. Times like that don’t grow on trees past 13. A 15-year old kid could be on fire and she’d still turn down a bucket of water with a polite, “No thanks,” so long as the person doing the offering was any class of father.

On the way home I threw the dice and asked if she’d want to extend the time a bit by shopping for a Christmas tree. It took us three different establishments to get the right price-to-quality ratio this year, since quality has been expanded to mean not only “unlikely to send the house up in flames within the first 24 hours of purchase” but also a kind of scale and grandeur. Size does matter, at least to some and she doesn’t settle.

Wrestled it home, set it up, utterly destroyed the legacy tree stand. The poor thing was never meant to grapple with eleven foot trees, so it was off again seeking a replacement. Several fits and starts later I was back at a tree lot, bashfully asking for their largest stand. “Twenty-seven dollars,” the young lady asked with a smile. I handed over my credit card and she continued, “Cash or check,” and of course, I had neither. The moment stretched wordlessly. “Just bring it by when you can,” she said.

And this, in San Diego.

Pizza was summoned, the clan joined – with even the Biscuit herself condescending to come out of chambers to help decorate the tree. The decorations themselves were brought out of their annual storage, as always with a little trepidation. Few casualties this year though, and old things that once brought smiles were brought forth in perfection, remembered, commented upon. The paper plate that the Biscuit had decorated 10 years ago when she was a mere nobbut was hung with all the solemnity of the crystal angel or the little porcelain statue of Father Christmas himself. Music to help us rock around the Christmas tree in that new old fashioned way when we weren’t decking the halls with boughs of holly. At 10PM it was discovered to our alarm that there were no candy canes. There would have to be candy canes. This serious breach of holiday discipline was soon rectified. The Kat and I returned to find the Hobbit and the Biscuit engaged in happy eager, heartfelt conversation. Warmed in a glow that wasn’t just Christmas tree lights the music turned mellow and we four pulled up chairs, sat close and just. Talked. Until midnight. Memories were summoned and tears were shed between the gales of laughter and serious thoughts, gentle reader. ‘Tis the season after all.

Another one of those moments, another of those days that I would have preserved in amber if I could, and kept someplace safe. To bring it out like the phial of Galadriel – to be a light for me in dark places, when all other lights go out.

I had set two tasks before me yesterday and accomplished neither. It was a good day.

This is the second Christmas the LeFon family is without their beloved husband and father.  I hope the memories they’ve “preserved in amber” give them comfort over the Christmas season.


Filed under Lex

An SR-72

Old heads and other aviation buffs remember Lockheed’s SR-71 with great fondness.  That aircraft was unequaled where pure, absolute speed was concerned and she was beautiful, on top of that.  So I read today that Lockheed-Martin’s Skunk Works is working on a follow-on aircraft, the SR-72.

Lockheed Martin Discloses Work on SR-72 Mach 6 Aircraft

Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works is developing an unmanned hypersonic strike aircraft called the SR-72 that’s designed to travel at six times the speed of sound—twice the speed of the company’s famed SR-71 Blackbird surveillance airplane, announced the company. The SR-72 could be operational by 2030, states the company’s Nov. 1 release. “Hypersonic aircraft, coupled with hypersonic missiles, could penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour,” said Brad Leland, Lockheed Martin’s hypersonics program manager. “Speed is the next aviation advancement to counter emerging threats in the next several decades. The technology would be a game-changer in theater, similar to how stealth is changing the battlespace today,” he said. For the past several years, Skunk Works and Aerojet Rocketdyne have been developing a method to integrate an off-the-shelf turbine engine with a supersonic combustion ramjet to power the SR-72 from standstill to Mach 6, states the release. The SR-72 design leverages the company’s work on DARPA’s Falcon program, which flight tested the rocket-launched Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, states the release.

I’m thinkin’ Kelly Johnson would be proud.

Cross-posted (in part) from EIP.


Filed under Uncategorized

Of Dragon Ladies and Oxcarts

From the Usual USAF Source

Declassified CIA Document Released on U-2, Oxcart

George Washington University’s National Security Archive last week released a redacted, declassified 1992 CIA document on the history of the U-2 and Oxcart reconnaissance aircraft programs that includes “a significant amount” of never-before-publicized details on them, according to the archive. Among them are: “numerous references” to the Air Force’s classified test site at Groom Lake, Nev., with a map of the area; and discussion of British participation in the U-2 program, U-2 operations from India between 1962 and 1967, and US-sponsored Chinese Nationalist U-2 operations. The CIA’s release of the redacted version of this document, The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Programs, 1954-1974, came in response to the archive’s 2005 Freedom of Information Act request. Some press reports last week made it seem like this document represented the first time that the US government publicly acknowledged the existence of the Groom Lake facility. That is incorrect, as US government recognition goes back at least to the mid-1990s by our count. (National Security Archive webpage on document) (See also Flying High and The Oxcart Story from Air Force Magazine’s archives.)

I’m working my way through the document at the web page link (above), beginning with the Oxcart section.  It’s fascinating reading, especially about Convair’s proposed alternative to the Lockheed design.  I never knew…

Here’s the table of contents:

Chapter 1 : Searching for a System
Chapter 2 : Developing the U-2
Chapter 3 : U-2 Operations in the Soviet Bloc and Middle East, 1958-1968
Chapter 4 : The Final Overflights of the Soviet Union, 1959-1960
Chapter 5 : U-2 Operations after May 1960
Chapter 6 : The U-2’s Intended Successor: Project OXCART, 1956-1968
Chapter 7 : Conclusion
Appendices, Bibliography

Those links work.

Cross-posted from EIP.


Filed under Airplanes, History, Other Stuff

Watching the Riots

(click for larger)

It hurt me to look at this photo, given my acrophobia.  I can’t imagine climbing down from there… let alone climbing up.

From a tweet by Earth Pics.  Re-posted from EIP.


Filed under International Affairs, Other Stuff

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

The Beginning of the End

From the Usual USAF Source

Final F-4 Regenerated for Use as Aerial Target
The final F-4 regenerated from storage in the Air Force’s aircraft boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., earlier this month departed the base for Mojave, Calif., for conversion to a QF-4 target drone, announced base officials. This RF-4C airframe, dubbed “Last One,” left Davis-Monthan on April 17, states the base’s April 19 release. “It’s a great feeling to see such a magnificent aircraft fly again to serve the warfighter,” said Eddie Caro, the crew chief assigned to the aircraft since December 2012. BAE Systems will convert the platform into the QF-4 configuration in California and then deliver it to Tyndall AFB, Fla. This airframe arrived at Davis-Monthan for retirement in January 1989 and had been dormant until technicians with the base’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group last year began restoring it to flying status, according to the release. The Air Force is transitioning from the QF-4 to using QF-16s as its full-scale aerial targets. (Davis-Monthan report by Teresa Pittman) (See also Three-Hundredth QF-4 Delivered.)
I suppose goin’ down in flames is preferable to rusting away in The Boneyard… or, as Neil put it: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away…
Cross-posted at EIP.


Filed under Plane Pr0n, USAF

Of Interest To The Lexicans

Another page from this month’s issue of Air Force Magazine…

Click to embiggen

Note the “Famous Fliers” section.


Filed under Family, History, In Memoriam, Lex