Category Archives: Airplanes

Robert “Hoot” Gibson

In the Facebook Group, Parrothead Jeff recommended this video, and what a fascinating 1:25 it has been. He talks about his various flying jobs, from an F-4 and F-14 to the Space Shuttle (and did you know one of his flights had a near-catastrophe?) – and his time at the Reno Air Races. Even talks about his time as a 737 captain for Southwest Airlines.

I was apparently wrong on a few things on my mentioning Reno (nothing like hearing from someone who still at an average of 503 mph in a Mustang – holds the record from 2015), tells you what it was like).

Wonderful slides accompany his talk – a humble guy it seems for such an accomplished aviator – having flown 159 different planes.

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The Wright Brothers

Like Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photo of Iwo Jima, this first flight was immortalized almost by accident .

I just finished David McCullough’s wonderful book on the Wright Brothers. He did some thorough research, including many notes by them on the study of bird flight, and letters.

One theme remained with me throughout the book.


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Filed under Aeronautical Engineering, Airplanes, Flying, History

On this date in history…

November 8, 1950

During the Korean War the very first- ever jet vs. jet aerial dogfight took place. U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Russell J. Brown was flying a Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star and successfully shot down two North Korean MiG-15s, which were possibly piloted by Russians. The MiG-15 was the fastest, most maneuverable fighter jet of its day, and generally dominated the skies it flew. Taking down two in a dogfight was a tremendous opening salvo.

H/T to my Air Force friend who sent this…

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It’s not all about top speed

Or thrust-to-weight ratio.

Got an interesting link today from my Internet friend of many years, a retired Air Force test pilot.

Just as we had a top secret program for many years involving captured Soviet fighters, the Soviets had a few of ours.

And the conclusions of one of the Russians top test pilots at the time, in evaluating “The Foreigner” (an F-5 that came from Vietnam after we left) vs a MiG 21, were objective, at times, funny (didn’t know that Russian fighters did not use brakes integrated with the rudder pedals), and, most of all, surprising.

In simulated dogfights, the F-5 won every time.

Lex would have loved to have read this article. He had some flight time of his own in an F-5E, with some amusing stories.

The conclusion of the Soviet experts in confronting a Tiger after their tests?

Our “experts” suggested not to engage in a close dogfight, but to use the “hit-and-run” tactics instead.

More here.


Filed under Airplanes, Flight simulation, Flying, Uncategorized, Wargaming

End of An Era

In my mind, there are few purpose-built machines made for optimal speed that are also beautiful to the eye. One is the Ford GT-40, the result of Henry Ford II’s decision to beat Ferrari at its own game. The Ford Budget was virtually unlimited, with a signed card by Ford to key designers with the admonition that “You’d better win”.

Or else.

Another is a plane that took the world by storm in 1964. The term “genius” has been inflated over the years; I believe. But Bill Lear, with an 8th grade education, would get the title.

He was a key player in the invention of the car radio, and years later, invented the 8 Track tape player.

I know.

I had a Learjet 8 Track in my 67 Camaro.

Oh, and he produced a jet that fired the world’s imagination.

What’s more it was certificated in a record time. From the Lear 23’s first flight in June 1963, it was certificated in July, 1964. I seriously doubt that anyone, even certificating a simple single piston engined plane, will ever duplicate.

A couple of years ago, I was on a road trip through Washington and Oregon and had to stop at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. And next to my parked car was a most unusual stable mate. A Lear 23 or 24 (I could never tell the difference).

An unusual car in the lot next to mine. A Lear 23 or 24. A 23 could be upgraded in the field to a 24.

There are plenty of Bill Lear stories during the development, but here’s one I like.

One of the engineers was having trouble with the design of the nose gear retraction assembly. This, of course, is before the days of CAD-CAM. Unknown to him, Lear was standing behind him and a few minutes later, gave him a solution.

There were other “Executive” jets out at her introduction, such as the Lockheed Jetstar and the North American Saberliner.

But none captured the public’s imagine like the original Learjet.

Perhaps this post about Frank Sinatra’s original Lear, found abandoned in San Jose in 2005, will give you a feel for the times.

Lear was a driven man.

The 23 projected speed, just sitting on the tarmac.

And on takeoff?

I had thought it could do a max performance climb of 10,000 fpm, but Wikipedia says “only” 6,900.

Still, that plane would impress anyone on the tarmac watching her go.

Take a look at this 25 taking off ,which came out a few years later and is a bit bigger.

Orpo1 put up a post on Facebook announcing that the parent company of Learjet, Bombardier, will cease production.

We’ll miss you Lear.

Thanks for firing our imaginations.

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Posted by lex, on March 8, 2008

A beautiful paean to the SR-71 over at Maggie’s Farm, courtesy of Marianne and Maj. Shul.

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Filed under Air Force, Airplanes, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Flying

Interesting concept

.Posted by lex, on June 6, 2006

The LA Times today had a story on a concept I hadn’t heard of before: The oblique flying wing * –

The plane would have no fuselage or tail; early models resemble a cross between a giant boomerang and a surfboard. What it lacks in stability, it would more than compensate for with unequaled aerodynamic efficiency.

For commercial flight, such a plane could cut by half the time it would take to fly to Tokyo from Los Angeles — all without burning the massive amounts of fuel that ultimately doomed the Concorde supersonic jet.

For the military, which is paying for Northrop’s design work, the aircraft could fly quickly to a war zone and then loiter at low speeds to extend the time to carry out its mission.

“It’s the holy grail of aerodynamics,” said Joe Pawlowski, the program’s manager.

Not to be confused with flying wing designs of either antiquity (that’d be B2’s timeframe) or modernity, the OFW would actually pivot airborne, with the wing’s full span used for take-off, approach and landing, and the plane rotating around its center of lift to present a narrower profile in cruise flight.

The good news? Apparently the aircraft could supercruise without extended use of afterburners, subtracting hours off of intercontinental travel while enabling extended ranges (and efficiency). The bad news? It’s going to be huge.

Interesting concept

If it ever gets off the ground, that is.

** 08-15-20 Link gone – Ed. 

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Filed under Airplanes, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Neptunus Lex

He Still Headed The Wrong Way

A German Wrong Way Corrigan?


I just finished watching a YouTube video on a comparison between the Focke-Wulf FW-190 and the P-51 Mustang.

Learned a lot of things.  I knew that the Mustang really came into its own when a Rolls Royce test pilot, Ronald Harker,  decided to substitute the Allison V12 for a Merlin. Didn’t realize that (A) the Merlin was still more powerful at 20,000 feet  than the Allison was at sea-level, and (B) fuel consumption was significantly improved. It was a win-win, and turned the Mustang from a good fighter to an icon. Actually it was a “win-win-win” as it gave the Mustang the high altitude performance that it lacked.

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Aviation – When to Listen to the Computer

I’ve really been enjoying this series on aviation airliner accidents. When I used to fly in the 80s, I used to read accounts of various accidents in aviation magazines to see if there was something I could learn from them.

And I believe Lex’s account of his flying has helped some readers somewhere.

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A Good Interview About the A-6 Intruder

One of our own, Comjam, talks about flying and fighting in the Intruder.

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Filed under Airplanes, Flying, Good Stuff, Naval Aviation, Navy