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Entries in Aviation (59)


Hammers of Hell

On April 30, 1962 at the then super-secret Area 51 facility at Groom Lake, Nevada, those who witnessed the first flight of the new A-12 spy plane were awe-struck by the raw power it displayed. It was so loud that somebody named it "The Hammers of Hell" on the spot.  Built by Lockheed for the CIA, its mission was to spy on the Soviet Union and its client states. Construction plans called for it to be largely built from a rare material called titanium. This was the only metal known that could withstand the super heating the air frame would experience at 3 times the speed of sound and altitudes above 80,000 feet. Using a series of fake companies and import firms, Lockheed was able to obtain the Titanium from non-other than the Soviet Union itself. So they helped the United States build a spy plane that they were never able to shoot down. It just flew too high and too fast. At altitude A-12 pilots reported that the sky turned black, the stars came out and they could see the curvature of the earth. They often out ran missiles shot at them. None were ever lost to enemy fire.

On the Line

This Airbus A340 taxi's to its gate after landing at Los Angeles International Airport. I can't claim credit for thinking quickly and capturing this interesting view of the aircraft. The opportunity was pointed out to me and I happily fired off about 10 frames.

Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service - AirButt Greg-380

As of the time of this posting the cost of an economy class round trip flight on this QANTAS A380 from Los Angeles, California to Sydney Australia is $1,497 USD. I recently had the opportunity to tour this aircraft and while it was huge, the economy seats were small and leg room tight for someone as tall as I am. I know this for a fact because I tried one on for size.
The aircraft itself was amazing. I was stunned by the incredibly high-tech cockpit and at its massive size.
The A380 has an range of 9,756 miles which would guarantee that I would run out of ass before it ran out of gas.

Temporary Parking

The Space Shuttle Endeavour in repose while awaiting the funding and construction of it's new exhibit space at the California Science Center at Exposition Park in Los Angeles.

Up and Over

We were parked very near the end of one of the runways at LAX waiting for this huge KLM 747 to make its turn on to final for landing. Kevin spotted it first and I was able to use my zoom lens to confirm that the approaching aircraft had 4 engines. This meant it was either the KLM 747 or an A380. It looked like it was going to pass directly overhead so I thought that perhaps switching from my zoom lens to my ultra wide 14mm would be a good idea. The only problem was that the aircraft was rapidly getting bigger and louder. I quickly got out of he car and dug in my backpack for the lens. I could hear the engines howling, blocking out all other sounds. I managed a very fast lens swap and swung my camera skyward just as this behemoth roared overhead. I managed to fire off about 10 frames using my new Sony A99. The focus tracking function worked perfectly! What an amazing experience this was. My ears are still ringing.

Leaving a Trail for Others to Follow

This huge MD-11 cargo plane leaves impressive vapor trails in the moist early morning air during its landing at Los Angeles International Airport. It was really interesting to see the various aircraft emerge from the fog surrounding the field and touch down while displaying such grace and power. The noise was deafening in some cases.


Red Fresco

Kathy and I made plans to go to 3 car shows on Saturday. Unfortunately 2 had been cancelled. The remaining show was in Rialto and was excellent. On the way home we stopped at the Chino Planes of Fame Museum. This is a MiG-17 fighter designed in Russia. The NATO code name for the MiG-17 is Fresco. All Russian fighters were assigned NATO code names that started with a letter F. For example, the names for the MiG-15, 19 and 21 were Fagot, Farmer and Fishbed respectively. This example has been nicely restored, its bright red and black paint stood out beautifully when compared to the other aircraft in this hanger which were mainly silver or grey. American pilots that encountered the MiG-17 over Vietnam quickly learned that trying to turn with this nimble aircraft would most likely result in the MiG shooting them down. The solution was to fight in the vertical plane, using the American aircraft's superior thrust to accelerate away from the MiG and re-engage from a more advantageous position. In the 1960's, a few flyable examples of the MiG-17 were "obtained" by U.S. intelligence agencies and participated in mock combat against American pilots and aircraft to train them in methods of effectively overcoming the MiG's advantages in the skies over Vietnam. One valuable lesson they learned was that at speeds over 450 knots, the MiG's control stick would partially lock up. American pilots engaged by the MiG were instructed to accelerate to 500+ knots and evade. The MiG would be unable to follow.


The Talon and the Tigershark

On Memorial Day I'll pause to say thank you to the men and women who have served and are serving our country in a dangerous world, protecting our freedoms and keeping us safe. I also want to say thank you to their families who sacrifice so much for us.

These two Northrop aircraft at first glance look quite similar but only the white T-38 Talon saw service as a training aircraft and MiG simulator for our Aggressor squadrons based at Nellis AFB near Las Vegas, NV. The gray F-20 Tigershark was an aircraft without a home. Designed by Northrop at the "suggestion" of the US government, once complete it found no customers. Only three were ever built and this is the only surviving example.


The Phantom of the Midway

I decided to take my neice Alexandra and her boyfriend Josh to San Diego for the weekend. We had a great time on the USS Midway aircraft carrier museum in San Diego harbor. I have been to the Midway a few times before, but this time we explored parts of the ship I had never seen including Pri-Fly and the Bridge.

I was sorry to hear the fireworks display in the bay went so badly this year. Nobody hurt but I understand all of the fireworks went off at once and the show was over in 12 seconds. Apparently about a thousand people had paid for viewing spots on the Midway's flight deck.

Pictured behind us in this fisheye / facebook style shot is an F4 Phantom II fighter / bomber which like all of the aircraft on the Midway has been wonderfully restored. A great day and a lot of fun.



Silverplate, originally uploaded by big_pixel_pusher.

I have read that even with the accute raw material shortages and rationing that went on during WWII, anything needed for the Manhattan project was was delivered on a silver platter. It was understood that if the United States failed to create a working atomic bomb before the Germans or the Japanese we would likely lose the war. Within the Manhattan project, nothing was given a higher priority than the special modifications that were needed to be made to standard B-29 bombers which would enable them to drop atomic weapons. For that reason these modifications were code named "Silverplate". Pictured here and preserved for history is the Enola Gay which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima Japan, the effects of which probably killed between 90,000 and 166,000 people while helping to end WWII and probably saving 1 million American lives.