Category Archives: Flying

Close to Home

Posted by lex, on December 8, 2008

Terrible news about the mishap off Miramar today. Three people dead, one missing, a neighborhood aflame.  It’s bad enough to stack every chip you’ve ever learned on a bet and lose your own life. Far worse to walk away and leave a hole in your wake. It’s every pilot’s nightmare, one of those things you don’t admit even to yourself.

I’d hate to have to live with that.

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Not Buying It

Posted by lex, on October 30, 2008

A couple of occasional readers have sent along this clip:

And one has even provided an interview * with the “pilot.”

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Tabhair dom póg, is mise píolóta

Posted by lex, on August 19, 2008

Today, constant reader, is National Aviation Day.You are encouraged, among other things, to invite the people of the United States to observe National Aviation Day with appropriate exercises to further stimulate interest in aviation in the United States. You might buy a pilot lunch, or tell him, oh, yes, very, when he asks you whether you’d like to go flying in that keen little plane he’s been ogling. If only for the appreciation that’s in it.

Might I recommend some aviation themed cocktails for that special someone?

Aviation – gin, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice

Kamakazi – vodka, triple sec, lime juice

Tailspin – gin, Sweet Vermouth, Green Chartreuse, Campari, (sounds horrible, no wonder it’s called a tailspin)

Jolly Pilot – gin, brandy, Cointreau, Sherry, Angostura bitters

Sky Pilot – gin, crème de noyeau, orange juice, Sherry

Sky Pilot – applejack, rum, grenadine, lime juice

Flying Fortress – Cognac, vodka, anisette, Cointreau

Flying Tiger – white rum, gin, grenadine, sugar, aromatic bitters

Parachute Cooler – coffee, kirsch, brandy, egg white

Word around the flight line is that the Kamakazi is a particularly dangerous concoction. Dinna ask me how I know.

What you probably ought not do on national aviation day is get yourself all hung up in power lines shortly after take-off and claim that you are now a Tailhooker. I don’t think.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Flying, Small Stuff

Flameout approach

Posted by lex, on August 6, 2008

Occasional reader Robert sends along the link to this vid ** of an F-16 performing an engine out approach to Elizabeth City airport.

From a professional standpoint, I’ve got to admire the sang-froid of dash four, who manages to sound good on the radio even as the observer senses the strain he’s under in his ragged breathing on the intercomm. I’m a little less completely in love with dash three, his element lead, who displays an all-too-familiar and lamentable USAF tendency towards logorrhea during an emergency. Sins of commission being thought superior to sins of omission, I suppose, and yet enough is too much. Sometimes you have to clear guard and let a guy die with dignity.

Robert asks if I’d ever had to land the F-16 without power, to which I have to answer, “No,” although I’d plenty of practice time just in case, and once came back to the field at NAS Key West using a precautionary engine out approach after an FA-18 blew a handful of flares down my intake as I was closing to guns.

Practice made perfect, though. One of our squadron pilots – a great stick – had to shut the motor down manually when his throttle got stuck at an unusably high power setting for landing. Squeaked her on the piano keys at Patuxent River Naval Air Station like that was what he’d been made for.

He was a really good guy.

** 12/08/20 – Link gone – Ed.

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My Small Moment With Chuck Yeager

Since his retirement from the Air Force in the late 70s, General Yeager lived just “up the hill” in Nevada County, in part of our historic gold rush region.

He certainly was an American Icon. Not only for what he did, being the first person to break the sound barrier, but the way he did it.

Which started the evening before in the desert at Pancho Barnes’ Happy Bottom Riding Club. By the way, do you know how this legendary place, long since gone, got its name? I didn’t know for years, and as is my nature kept looking until I found the answer.

Pancho rented horses, horses allegedly so gentle, that the rider was guaranteed a “happy bottom” in riding them!

I’ve had an Internet friend for years, who is a retired Air Force test pilot, who remembered for years seeing the ruins of Pancho’s on the edge of Edwards (called Muroc in its early days).

Anyway, the icon part of the story started the evening before that historic October morning, when Yeager fell off one of those gentle horses and broke some ribs.

And since he didn’t want the mission to be cancelled the next morning and in all probability lose his ride, kept this news from the powers-that-be.

Sidebar: If someone else had taken his place next morning, would he have survived? Yeager encountered extreme buffeting in that Bell, and nearly lost control. One of the reasons they learned later on was because of the conventional elevators on the horizontal stabilizer. The fuselage was shaped like a .50 caliber bullet, but the empennage was like all empennages at the time. With a conventional horizontal stabilizer.

A typical subsonic empennage, with elevators and horizontal stabilizer. Whether on the simplest Cessna or the largest Boeing 747, this is the empennage.

What they learned from this flight, with help from our cousins the British (OK, full disclosure – I think from their own experiments into supersonic flight, they contributed this design for us!) A stabilator made the transition to supersonic flight almost seamless. Unlike the illustration above a stabilator uses the entire horizontal stabilizer as an elevator, and pivots on the fuselage.

Since this site is dedicated to Hizzoner, here is the stabilator from an F/A-18 Hornet:

From Yeager’s flight on an early October morning in 1947 to the Hornet – a stabilator to ease the transition at the sound barrier.

So anyway, back to the making of an icon. Despite the pain of broken ribs (alas, no happy bottom the previous evening!), Yeager shows up at the appointed time and because of the pain, asks his friend to help him by giving him a lever to close the lock on the hatch, which was a broom handle.

On that cold crisp desert morning, those on the ground heard a shock wave, and assumed the worst. And Yeager flew into aviation history.

I remember some passages from his autobiography I read years ago. How many airline pilots of the 50s, in talking on the passenger intercom, wanted to imitate that West Virginia drawl. How in training at Tonopah in an Aircobra, witnessed terrible attrition from new pilots.

How over in Germany, and seeing an overwhelming number of 109s and Focke-Wulfs, would just dive into the melee.

How in one of those melees, he became an ace – shooting down 5 planes- in a matter of minutes.

Part of his secret, he would admit, was his vision which was 20-10.

For a fighter pilot, particularly one before all the electronic days, being able to see enemy planes first could mean the difference between life and death.

Chuck was the epitome of cool.

I would like to think that there is some party at Pancho’s now.

Oh, and about my own small moment? It was so small I think I can say with certainty that Chuck wouldn’t even remember it.

It was probably during the time during the 80s he was associated with AC-Delco.

I was going south down Hwy 99, a rather boring and desolate highway running down the middle of the Central Valley, in my Toyota. And as was my nature at the time, trying to eck out a few MPH over the limit, while hoping not to attract the attention of the Highway Patrol.

Anyway, somewhere below Galt, I saw a metallic blue Corvette just ambling along in the right lane.

Which caught my attention because, well, most Corvette drivers wouldn’t putt along at 55 on the highway.

As I got closer I saw the license plate – “Bell X1A“. I was wondering at that moment if the driver was who I thought it might be.

As I passed, sure enough it was General Yeager, driving with nothing to prove.

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Filed under Flying, Heroes Among Us, History

Autres réves

Posted by lex, on June 30, 2008

Conscientious readers will remember that your correspondent has a mild case of the hankerin’s for an Aviat Husky all tricked out with mudders, the better for to land on creek beds out back. They may not realize, however, that he’s also entranced with another GA design built for entirely different applications, the Cirrus SR-22.

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Mircroburst

Posted by lex, on January 20, 2020

I didn’t read the mishap report on the S-3 which crashed near Jacksonville, Florida in the fall of 2005 event, which strangely enough accounts for the fact that I can discuss it – the mishap report contents are “privileged” to ensure that every witness or participant in a mishap freely discloses what they know without fear of punishment or legal consequences. But from an article in the Miami Herald today, it appears as though the mishap – which took the lives of two naval aviators – was indeed weather related *:

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Blackbird

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

Using all of it

Posted by lex, on February 15, 2008

I dunno but what I would have done things differently than this feller – I mean calculated take-off rolls are all very well and good, but this was cutting it a little fine for my tastes.

It does kind of explain how hard he worked getting all the way to the approach end of the runway prior to making a stab at it.

Sheesh.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Flying, Neptunus Lex

Bomber Command

Posted by lex, on January 13, 2008

The heroics of the 8th Air Force over France and Germany are fairly well known to enthusiasts of the literature. Their mission was to conduct massive, daylight bombardment of the German war machine in Western Europe from airfields in Britain. By 1944 8AF could launch a 2,000 strong wave of B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator bombers over Europe, escorted by a thousand fighters. They flew over 400,000 sorties into that sharply contested continental air space. Their crews went out day after day, even though – with 25% casualty rates on some missions, and roughly half of the US Army Air Corps’ total casualties – their losses were appalling.

Less well known were the logisticians and ops planners who  coordinated these missions while the aircrew rested in preparation for their mission. Over at Michael Yon’s place, retired USAF LCOL Leslie Lennox tells this tale:

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Flying, History