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Veterans Day 2019: A Pittance of Time
This is my annual Veterans Day tribute. On November 11 (the 11th day of the 11th month), at 11:00 am (the 11th hour), we observe 2 minutes of silence in honor of countrymen who "gave the last full measure of devotion." A Pittance of Time is performed by Canadian citizen Terry Kelly(he went blind at an early age). It was written after an experience he had on Veterans Day in 1999. It is done in the finest Celtic tradition.
Mercury Transit on Monday, November 11
Mercury will pass across the face of the sun. The astronomical term is "transit." What makes this transit of Mercury so spectacular is that it passes nearly in the center of the sun. It will take Mercury approximately 5-1/2 hours to move from the eastern edge to the western edge, from 7:35 am to 1:04 pm EST. Both the sun and the moon subtend an angular width of about half a degree. Of course will should never look directly at the sun with your naked eyes, and particularly not with any sort of magnification, be it binoculars or a telescope. The safest way to observe this Mercury transit it by using a white projection screen with any telescope generate an image large enough to make the black dot of Mercury stand out relative to the sun. Weather permitting, I'll have my 1969 era 60 mm Sears Model 6305A refractor set up. The next transit of Mercury will be in 2032!
Professor Phugoid and His Contribution to Modeling
An ability to trim a model aircraft for proper flight with no supplementary control surface input has, since the advent of precise, reliable radio control (R/C), been the domain mostly of the relatively small number of free flight (F/F) and competition fliers of control line (C/L) and R/C. Most models can be made to fly very well when a human or electronic pilot is able to make corrective deflections of control surfaces. Warped and twisted wings, misaligned tail surfaces, and even a dangerously mislocated center of gravity can have their otherwise detrimental - even dangerous - effects mitigated by a skillful flyer. Authors have written that a properly trimmed model of any sort will fly more precisely and successfully ...
UK Drone Operators Must Register by End of November
"The UK government is requiring drone operators to register their aerial vehicles. In a press release, the UK Civil Aviation Authority announced that in conjunction with the mandatory registration it is launching a new service to help drone owners find their lost drones. Under the scheme, all drone owners and operators in the UK that have droves that weigh more than 250g have to register them. Registration costs £9 which the UK government argues is a lot cheaper than replacing a lost drone. UK drone owners have until 30 November to register or they can face a fine of as much as $1290, according to one report ..."
Douglas O-31A Observation Plane
The February 1942 issue of Flying Aces magazine contained a quadruplet of 3-view scale drawings of early airplanes: The German Fokker D.V Albatros fighter biplane, the American Army Air Force's Douglas O-31A observation monoplane, the Ryan Navy Seaplane, and Russian I-16 Mosca fighter low wing monoplane. Per Wikipedia, "The Douglas O-31 was the Douglas Aircraft Company's first monoplane observation straight-wing aircraft used by the United States Army Air Corps. Anxious to retain its position as chief supplier of observation aircraft to the USAAC, Douglas developed a proposal for a high-wing monoplane successor to the O-2. A contract was signed on January 7, 1930 for two XO-31 prototype aircraft ...
Free Flight Sensation: Bob Linn's B-70
Jet airplanes were still somewhat of a novelty with actual flying models when this article about a free flight North American XB−70 Valkyrie appeared in a 1961 issue of American Modeler magazine. This rather large - 21" wingspan and 45" long at 15 ounces - craft is built of 3/32" and 1/4" balsa sheet and is powered by a Cox .049 engine in a pusher configuration. That's not a lot of power for such a large ship, but it must have been. The plans are easily scaled up or down with pencil and paper thanks to a 1" square grid provided. Today, the B−70 could probably be built lighter and be powered by an electric propulsion setup ...
Albatros D.V Biplane Fighter Scale Drawing
The February 1942 issue of Flying Aces magazine contained a triplet of 3-view scale drawings of early airplanes: The German Fokker D.V Albatros fighter biplane, the American Army Air Force's Douglas O-31A observation monoplane, and Russian I-16 Mosca fighter low wing monoplane. Per Wikipedia, "The Albatros D.V was a fighter aircraft built by the Albatros Flugzeugwerke and used by the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service) during World War I. The D.V was the final development of the Albatros D.I family and the last Albatros fighter to see operational service. Despite its well-known shortcomings and general obsolescence, approximately 900 D.V and 1,612 D.Va aircraft were built before production halted in April 1918." Here is an official outline drawing of the Albatros ...
Only Flying YL-15 Scout in the World
"Nine years after the end of World War II, Keith Brunquist's father, Norm, took him out to an airstrip near their Anchorage, Alaska home and showed Keith, who was nearly three years old, a Boeing YL-15 Scout. Sixty-three years after his first glimpse of the odd little airplane, Keith landed the fully restored Scout at the world's biggest gathering of aircraft: the Experimental Aircraft Association's 2017 AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. By the time the show was over, the YL-15 was recognized as the grand champion for post-World War II warbirds. In addition, Keith's workmanship in restoring the Scout earned him a Gold Wrench award ..."
NASA Opens Competition to Build Human-Rated Lunar Landers
"Companies have until November 1 to submit proposals to NASA for a human-rated lander that could be ready in time to carry astronauts to the moon's surface by the end of 2024, and the agency is leaving open the option for contractors to develop a descent craft that would bypass the planned Gateway mini-space station in lunar orbit, at least for the first landing attempt. The lunar lander, or Human Landing System, is critical to the Trump administration's goal of returning humans to the moon's surface by the end of 2024. NASA named effort after Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, after Vice President Mike Pence announced the 2024 goal ..."
The Berliner-Joyce OJ-2
The Berliner-Joyce OJ−2 was a multi-purpose biplane built for naval service. Its maiden flight was in 1931. As this American Aircraft Modeler magazine article photos show, it could be configured with wheels or floats. Berliner-Joyce Aircraft Corporation had is main offices in Baltimore, Maryland, which was a popular location for defense contractors then and now. The Glen L. Martin Company, manufacturer of the famous Martin B−10 Bomber, was also in Baltimore. The OJ-2 was in heavy competition with the Vought O2U Corsair, which, unlike its eventual and much more famous successor gull-wing, all-metal F4U Corsair, was a fabric-covered biplane. Someone at Vaught must have really been stuck on using the Corsair name ...
China Unmanned Rocket-Powered Aircraft for Recon When Satellites Down
"China's big 70th anniversary parade marking the founding of the PRC has come and gone. There were a number of revelations, some of which we are still analyzing, but the biggest ones were in the unmanned space. In the days leading up to the parade, we had covered both of the most impressive unmanned vehicles that were to be displayed. It's time to follow up with our analysis now that we have seen them in far greater detail. We posted our analysis on the GJ-11 Sharp Sword UCAV earlier today, now here are my takeaways from the official unveiling of the WZ-8 - also referred to as the DR-8 - high-speed reconnaissance drone. Before we get started, it's important to note that the two WZ-8s ..."
Airplane Wing Assembled from Tiny Identical Pieces
"A radically new kind of airplane wing, assembled from hundreds of tiny identical pieces, can change shape to control the plane's flight, and could provide a significant boost in aircraft production, flight, and maintenance efficiency. The new approach to wing construction could afford greater flexibility in the design and manufacturing of future aircraft. Instead of requiring separate movable surfaces, such as ailerons, to control the roll and pitch of the plane as conventional wings do, the new assembly system makes it possible to deform the whole wing or parts of it by incorporating a mix of stiff and flexible components in its structure. The tiny subassemblies ..."
UK Space Organisations Develop Self-Aligning Orbital Telescopes
"Oxford University and Surrey Space Centre and Surrey Satellite Technology embark on a joint project to develop space telescopes that are more compact for launching. The design of all space hardware tries to minimise two factors: launch weight and launch volume. But for space telescopes, minimising launch volume is particularly tricky, because the physics underlining the operation of telescopes depends on their size - the area of the primary mirror has to be maximised to collect the largest amount of light possible, and the space between primary mirror and secondary mirror is fixed by the size of the primary. With the Earth observation market growing, and already at the multibillion dollar level ..."
Could Airships Rise Again?
"Transportation produces about one-fourth of global anthropogenic carbon emissions. Of this, maritime shipping accounts for 3%, and this figure is expected to increase for the next three decades even though the shipping industry is actively seeking greener alternatives, and developing near-zero-emission vessels. Researchers with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), in Austria, recently explored another potential solution: the return of airships to the skies. Airships rely on jet stream winds to propel them forward to their destinations. They offer clear advantages over cargo ships in terms of both efficiency and avoided emissions. Returning to airships, says Julian Hunt, a researcher at the IIASA and lead author ..."
The Boom in R/C Boats
Bill (William) Winter served as the editor of the Academy of Model Aeronautics' (AMA's) American Modeler and American Aircraft Modeler magazines from 1966 through 1974, but his efforts to promote all form of modeling - airplanes, helicopters, cars, boats, trains, and rockets - covered many decades. His first recorded article, "Building the Famous Udet Flamingo," (co-authored by Walter McBride), was published in the March 1935 issue of Universal Model Airplane News magazine. His 264th, "The Soft Touch," appeared in Model Aviation (the latest incarnation of the AMA's flagship magazine) in 1996. This article entitle "The Boom in R/C Boats" appeared in a 1955 edition of Popular Electronics magazine which, during the early ...
Water Jet Powered Drone Takes Off
"To take off from the water, this drone uses an explosion-powered water jet. At ICRA 2015, the Aerial Robotics Lab at the Imperial College London presented a concept for a multimodal flying swimming robot called AquaMAV. The really difficult thing about a flying and swimming robot isn't so much the transition from the first to the second, since you can manage that even if your robot is completely dead (thanks to gravity), but rather the other way: going from water to air, ideally in a stable and repetitive way. The AquaMAV concept solved this by basically just applying as much concentrated power as possible to the problem, using a jet thruster to hurl the robot out of the water with quite a bit of velocit ..."
SpaceX's 1st Rocket for Humans Test-Fired in Texas
"The Falcon 9 booster assigned to launch two NASA astronauts on an orbital test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule has been test-fired in Texas, but the schedule for the long-awaited mission remains unclear. SpaceX announced the static fire test of the Falcon 9's first stage in a tweet August 29. The launch vehicle's nine Merlin 1D first stage engines ignited on a test stand at SpaceX's test site in McGregor, Texas, for a hold-down firing before the booster is shipped to Cape Canaveral for final launch preparations. The 15-story booster produces some 1.7 million pounds of thrust from its nine Merlin engines, which consume super-chilled ..."
Down Memory's Runway
Flying Aces magazine, which was published in the middle of the last century, had for a while a monthly featured entitled, "Down Memory's Runway," where vintage (at the time) aircraft were featured in pictures and captions. Of course those same airplanes are practically prehistoric today. By 1942 when this column was published, biplanes had been replace by monoplanes as the standard commercial and military design. A 14-passenger Boeing 80-A passenger biplane is included, along with the statement that it is believed to be the only tri-motored biplane built in the U.S. Of course there was the famous Ford Trimotor, but it was a monoplane. Also included is a photo of Claude Ryan with his company's first M-1 monoplane. The swirled finish ...
How Boeing Builds Them - 314 Clippers
Oh, for the days when American big airplane manufacturers rightfully claimed air superiority. Boeing, of course, was arguably the leader of the pack, although Douglas and McDonnell ran close at Boeing's heels. The unfortunate incidences of the 737 MAX Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software issue has delivered a huge black eye to Boeing at a time when they are desperately trying to compete with Airbus in the commercial airline transport market. Boeing enthusiasts who used to recite the "If it's not Boeing, I'm not going," mantra have been forced to reconsider their brand loyalty. This brief inset piece in a 1941 pre-war issue of Air Trails magazine extolled the virtues of Boeing's 314 Clipper amphibious airplane that facilitated Pan American Airway's (PAA) domination of transoceanic passenger and cargo operations. Similar to the manner in which the U..S. Navy used to sponsor ...
Volocopter Air Taxi Flies in Controlled Airspace
"Germany's Volocopter air taxi has flown a test flight at Helsinki International Airport while integrated with both traditional and unmanned air traffic management (ATM) systems. Managing the skies in urban environments is a pressing concern as drone and air taxi technology rapidly advances. Developing safe systems to allow unmanned vehicles to operate alongside piloted planes has become a priority for countries and regions hoping to embrace this new wave of aerial innovation. The latest Volocopter flight, which took place on 29 August, is part of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Programme, which aims to create a single coordinated airspace for commercial, general and drone aviation ..."
The Aluminum Casalaire Advertisement
This advertisement for the Aluminum Casalaire control line (C/L) model airplane appeared in the November 1946 issue of Air Trails magazine. The Casalaire was designed and marketed by Louis Casale of the AMA Nationals fame. Its fuselage is made of stamped aluminum components that are held together with rivets which were set with a pair of pliers - no air hammer or bucking bar required. Wings and empennage are built from standard balsa and plywood parts. With a wingspan of 45" and a B- or C-size engine, it is a fairly large model. For more background information and magazine appearances of the Casalaire, look about half-way down this page on the Collect Air website. Another advertisement for the Casalaire shown at Collect Air includes a twin-cylinder Viking 65 engine that came with a 3-blade, variable-pitch propeller ...
"Flyin' Jenny" Comic Strip: January 2, 1944
This is the Sunday, January 2, 1944, "Flyin' Jenny" comic strip. The Baltimore Sun newspaper, published not far from where I grew up near Annapolis, Maryland, carried "Flyin' Jenny" from the late 1930s until the strip ended in the mid 1940s, so I saved a couple dozen from there. The first one I downloaded has a publication date of December 7, 1941 - that date "which will live in infamy," per President Roosevelt. Many Americans were receiving word over the radio of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor while reading this comic at the breakfast table. I expect that soon there will be World War II themes. "Flyin' Jenny," whose real name was Virginia Dare (what's in a name?), was a test pilot for Starcraft Aviation Factory ...
To the Moon by 2024
"The vice president did his best to sound stirring. The podium, the flag, the ringing cadences - all were meant to convey that this moment in the spring of 2019 was a significant one, a turning point in the history of space exploration. 'It is the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the moon within the next...five...years.' Hardly had Mike Pence concluded his March 26 speech to the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama, when the doubts and second-guessing began. Even at NASA headquarters, where Administrator Jim Bridenstine took questions from his troops at a televised town hall a few days later, the applause was tepid, and the questions had mostly to do with money and political commitment ..."
A Career Built on Flying Models
"The Job: Gritter's first job with Aurora Flight Sciences was building a small-scale model to prove the concept of the XV-24 Lightning Strike, winner of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency competition for a super high-performance, short-takeoff-and-landing aircraft. He also performs aerobatic routines at airshows in full-scale airplanes. How did flying radio-controlled airplanes prepare you for your job? Being around model airplanes exposed me to all the technology - the components, the electronics. That was hugely beneficial in school because the senior capstone ..."
Comet Jetex-Powered Lockheed Starfire F/F Kit
Here is a vintage Jetex-powered Comet Lockheed F−94C Starfire kit that, prior to my receiving it, had been started by the previous owner. It was designed and drawn by Gerald Blumenthal. The copyright date printed on the plans is 1953. Many of the parts had been cut out of the printwood balsa sheets, but none of the airframe has been assembled. There were no laser-cut kits back in the era of this kit, when the die-cut balsa sheets often were more appropriately referred to as "die-smashed" due to dull cutting edges on the die. It was also not uncommon for the die-cut part to not exactly match the outline of the printed pattern. Cutting out the parts with an X-Acto knife takes more time, but at least for the small shapes and for accuracy that is the way to go. I have not done a full inventory of the kit, but it appears most, if not all, parts are present ...
1960s Sport of Hang Gliding Still Hangs On
"'We first flew in dreams, but the dream of flight has become real,' the narrator says. The image on the giant screen is mesmerizing: Above massive volcanic islands reaching up from the ocean floats a tiny triangular form. This is the first shot of the hang gliding scene from To Fly!, the iconic IMAX film made for the opening of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 1976. It has been playing for more than 40 years, and for many, it's their first encounter with hang gliding. In the scene, pilot Bob Wills hangs below the wing, shifting his body to exert control over the impossibly simple craft. He soars between mountain peaks, then climbs, stalls, dives, and swoops high above the water. When the film was made, hang gliding was emerging ..."
Russian Mosca I-16 Fighter
This Russian Mosca I-16 fighter airplane bears some resemblance the Bee Gee series of American racers. According to the Wikipedia entry, "The Polikarpov I−16 (Russian: Поликарпов И-16) was a Soviet single-engine single-seat fighter aircraft of revolutionary design; it was the world's first low-wing cantilever monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear to attain operational status and as such 'introduced a new vogue in fighter design.' The I-16 was introduced in the mid-1930s and formed the backbone of the Soviet Air Force at the beginning of World War II. The diminutive fighter, nicknamed 'Ishak' or 'Ishachok' ('Donkey' or 'Burro') by Soviet pilots, figured prominently in the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Battle of Khalkhin Gol and the Spanish Civil War - where it was called the Rata ('Rat') or Mosca ('Fly')." Its maiden flight occurred ...
Airplane of the Year
"This September, at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, a couple dozen magnificently restored airplanes will gather once again to be evaluated by judges and admired by fans. Those who attend will be able to stroll among some pretty special aircraft, hear the owners and restorers tell their stories, and watch the presentation of trophies by aviation heroes. They'll also get the chance to vote for their favorite airplanes. By all means, get to Reno if you can. But if you can't, we invite you to read the stories of these remarkable airplanes and vote for the one that strikes a chord with you. Whichever one receives the most votes will win the People's Choice trophy at Reno and be named 'Air & Space Magazine Airplane of the Year.' The winner ..."
Scale Model Instrument Panels for IFR
It is hard to imagine how pilots managed to find their way through fog, rain, sleet, and snow prior to the advent of instruments that could indicate whether the airplane was flying straight and level or spiraling toward the ground. Some flyers were good enough in most situations to sense attitude even without an outside-the-cockpit visual clue. However, it is entirely possible to enter into a situation where your senses cannot possibly tell the difference between normal flight and a life threatening scenario. Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity tells us that without knowing otherwise, there is no discernable difference between gravity and physical acceleration. Therefore, a pilot in solid Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) conditions where he cannot see the sky or ground could very well mistake ...
Sears Model 6305A 60 mm Equatorial Refactor Telescope
AMA Historical Video Collection
Harley-Davidson Ad from April 1951 Air Trails
When is the last time you saw an advertisement for Harley-Davidson motorcycles in a model airplane magazine? This ad appeared in a 1951 issue of Air Trails. Harley Davidson was established way back in 1903, so even in 1951 it was nearly half a century old. Early models looked like - and essentially were - bicycles with beefed up frames and an engine nestled between the rider's lower legs. Interestingly, the Wikipedia article notes that Harley-Davidson and Indian were the only two major motorcycle manufacturers who survived the Great Depression that began in 1929. Equally interesting - for those who remember the TV show "Happy Days" - is that quintessential 1950s biker figure Fonzi rode a British-made Triumph motorcycle, not one of the American brands ...
NTSB Offers Preliminary Information on B−17 Accident
"As the Collings Foundation's crippled B−17, N93012, was approaching Runway 6 at Bradley Windsor Locks, Connecticut, a few weeks ago, the crew was already desperately pressed for altitude to try and align the World War II bomber with the runway for landing. Shortly after takeoff from Runway 6 just minutes before, the airplane never climbed above 500 feet AGL before it began a return to the field with a mechanical problem reported in the number four engine. By the time the airplane was on downwind, its altitude had dropped to 300 feet. During the turn from base to final, the Boeing continued losing altitude, eventually striking the airport approach lights 1,000 feet short of the hard surface ..."
Dream Chaser Structure Arrives at Factory for Outfitting
"The composite structure of Sierra Nevada Corp.'s first space-rated Dream Chaser space plane has arrived at the company's Colorado factory for integration with computers, a heat shield and mechanical systems before launch to the International Space Station in late 2021. The spaceship has been more than 15 years in the making for Sierra Nevada - also known as SNC - a family-owned, privately-held company based in Nevada with a space unit headquartered in Louisville, Colorado, near Denver. Originally conceived as a human-rated vehicle to ferry astronauts to and from low Earth orbit, the Dream Chaser is now under development under contract to NASA as a cargo freighter for the space station. Sierra Nevada is contracted to fly ..."
New Hubble Constant Adds to Cosmic Mystery
"New measurements [of the Hubble Constant] of the rate of expansion of the universe add to a growing mystery: Estimates of a fundamental constant made with different methods keep giving different results. New measurements of the rate of expansion of the universe, led by astronomers at the University of California, Davis, add to a growing mystery: Estimates of a fundamental constant made with different methods keep giving different results. 'There's a lot of excitement, a lot of mystification and from my point of view it's a lot of fun,' said Chris Fassnacht, professor of physics at UC Davis and a member of the international SHARP/H0LICOW collaboration, which made the measurement using the W.M. Keck telescopes in Hawaii ..."
German eROSITA X-ray Telescope Achieves First Light
"Astronomers are elated with the first X-ray images from a German telescope on Russia's Spektr-RG astronomy mission, demonstrating the instrument's ability to observe galaxies near and far as scientists seek answers to questions about dark energy. German officials released the 'first light' images from the eROSITA instrument Tuesday. The German-built instrument is the primary payload on the Russian Spektr-RG X-ray astronomy observatory, which launched in July on a Proton rocket and headed for an observing post nearly a million miles from Earth. 'These first images from our telescope show the true beauty of the hidden universe ..."
NASA X-59 QueSST Being Built at Lockheed Skunk Works
"In the high desert of California, where some of the most important aircraft in aviation history have been built and flown, the next airplane destined to make history continues to take shape on a legendary factory floor. That airplane is NASA's X-59 QueSST (Quiet Supersonic Technology), an experimental piloted aircraft designed to fly faster than sound without producing sonic booms. The factory is better known as the Skunk Works, a renowned Lockheed Martin division that for the past 76 years has used an out-of-the-box approach to design and manufacturing that has produced some of the nation's most advanced airplanes. Now that legacy ..."
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Even during the busiest times of my life I have endeavored to maintain some form
of model building activity. This site has been created to help me chronicle my journey
through a lifelong involvement in model aviation, which
all began in Mayo,