Tag Archives: Best of Neptunus Lex

Round Up

By lex, on January 3rd, 2011

Two out of three pax got sick on me yesterday, and I was beginning to fret. As was, one presumes, my weekend employer. Who stands to gain no word of mouth when that selfsame mouth has been wracked with expectorant contortions.

Firstus was a husband and wife team, herself a comely and voluble internal specialist veterinarian. Which I guess I thought they all were, not knowing that veterinarians had specialties, like. Hizzoner was very nearly a mute, confining his responses to monosyllables. I was left to wonder – not for the first time – about the strange vagaries in life that throw two people on the same boat.

He was a big feller too, and I’ve noticed a certain trend among the retired policemen, firefighters, building contractors and the like, once they’ve gained a certain avoirdupois: They often get sick.

I have no overarching theory as to why this should be true. I only make the observation.

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Formation Go

By lex, on December 18th, 2010

Military aircraft typically fly from point to point in formation. The two-ship formation offers mutual support for the minimum tactical aviation element while reducing the burden of gaining individual flight clearances. It also permits an efficient use of airspace and provides an opportunity for leadership; a senior aviator often serves as mentor for his more junior partner.

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Forgone Conclusion

By lex, on December 13th, 2010

Pilot error was to blame for that C-17 crash at an airshow in Alaska last summer:

A pilot’s overly aggressive maneuvering and overconfidence were blamed in an investigative report on a C-17 plane crash at an Anchorage military base that killed all four airmen on board.

Besides pilot error, the crew on board was also faulted for failing to notice the dangerous situation that culminated with the plane stalling and crashing into some woods July 28 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

“The mishap pilot violated regulatory provisions and multiple flight manual procedures, placing the aircraft outside established flight parameters at an attitude and altitude where recovery was not possible,” the report’s executive summary says…

Pacific Air Forces, based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, released the results of its investigation Friday evening.

The probe “found clear and convincing evidence the cause of the mishap was pilot error,” the report says. It also found evidence that other factors including overconfidence and misplaced motivation contributed to the crash.

When a crew augers in so spectacularly, it’s tempting to stand on the sidelines and play the critic. But we have to keep in mind that the pilot in command put everything he’d ever been taught, everything he had and everything he ever would have had into that decision. He believed in it so completely that he laid his life and the lives of his crew on the line for it. Everyone who ever flew with him, or taught him, or fought alongside him lost the opportunity to influence him in such a way as to avert this disaster.

The fact that he was wrong is not an opportunity for those left behind who have not faced what he faced to stand in judgment – it is a tragedy. A tragedy we should all learn from and teach to.


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By lex, on December 12th, 2010

It was an elaborately planned plot, crafted in haste, timed to perfection and executed with abandon. So much abandon in fact, that your humble scribe was half way to Gillespie Field in Horrible East County on his moto when he realized that he had abandoned the key to Citabria 8643 upon his car key chain. There would have been much hair-pulling and tearing of clothes at this juncture, were it not for the fact that we were wearing a motorcycle helmet, leather jacket and gloves, so we were forced to settle on the gnashing of teeth. All was not utterly lost at this revelation, although it was too late to turn back to Chez Lex and recover the item. The situation might – might – be recoverable if there was someone at the club house, or else a kindly CFI willing to part with a spare to some stumblebum off the street. But: As I arrived at the aerodrome I realized that I had also left my headset in the trunk of my car. Anyone at an airport found going looking for not merely the key to an airplane but also a headset will shortly find himself wearing the white jacket with the buttons in the back, I should think. The combination served to wreck the experience utterly. Although! We wrapped up the last dogfight by 1600 and sunset was at 1645, so it would have worked, too.

Had we not been such a moran.

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By lex, on December 11th, 2010

In this space I was going to write a thought provoking piece on the role of naval aviation in our country’s national security strategy through 2050. Alternatively, I was going to take a hack at writing something lyrical and beautiful that would have placed you right there in the cockpit with me as something especially moving happened. Failing in those endeavors, I would have put up some plane pr0n for the amusement of the masses, or maybe some almost qualified commentary on the sad, degraded state of our national political discourse. All or any of these things would have been done before 1100, when I arrive at Montgomery Field for the first of my three dogfights today.

But, you know, it’s been daylight savings time for quite some time now, and the afternoon hours darken with irritating eagerness. And the workload has been crushing, like. So I haven’t gotten to do any recreational flying to speak of.

So instead of entertaining you with these my austere gifts, I think I’ll toodle down to Gillespie Field on the moto for to fly the Citabria to Ramona for some tailwheel landing practice before heading down to Montgomery to pick up the paying work and hopefully get her back to Gillespie before the sun goes down.

Life: Sometimes it gets in the way.


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50 Years of the E-Type Jag

By lex, on December 10th, 2010

The Economist reminds us of an upcoming celebration:

PETROL-HEADS of a certain age may have noticed that the 50th anniversary of the Jaguar E-Type sportscar is imminent. Within the motoring world, it will be the cause for much ballyhoo and dewy-eyed nostalgia. But before getting caught up in all the hoopla, your correspondent—wizened enough to have been around when the iconic car made its debut at the Geneva motor show in 1961—would like to contribute his two-pennyworth of personal experience on why the E-Type really was the most innovative piece of automotive machinery of its age.

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By lex, on December 4th, 2010

Courtesy of VX, mine-detecting rats:

Reporting from Bogota, Colombia — Rats may soon become heroic figures in this nation’s struggle to detect and dispose of land mines.

Early next year, anti-narcotics police will begin deploying squads of rats to sniff out land mines in remote areas of Colombia where leftist rebels and drug traffickers have planted hundreds of thousands of the deadly devices. It’s an unconventional initiative in a country that is second only to Afghanistan in the number of land mine victims.

Using a project in Tanzania as a model, Colombian scientists have taught rats to detect mines buried as deep as 3 feet. The rats are conditioned to search and burrow down for explosives in exchange for the reward of sugar…

Rats have the advantage over bomb-sniffing dogs of being so light that they do not detonate explosives, as canines sometimes do. And researchers have found that the rodents are more adept than dogs at sensing explosives when the materials have been masked with coffee grounds, feces, fish, mercury and other substances.

“The more I work with rats, the more I am amazed at what they can do,” said Luisa Fernanda Mendez, a civilian behavioral veterinarian in charge of the rat-training project.

Cheaper than dogs, and no one sheds a tear when, well: You know.


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