Archive for the ‘Flying General’ Category
In Bedfordshire Shuttleworth was just down the road, we were almost within an extended circuit. Lazy Summer evenings with just the whisper of a breeze brought the most exquisite evening flying displays where the most ancient, most delicate craft were bought from the sheds to be offered again to the sky. They were times for picnics, shrimps and Champagne, sausages on sticks and quiche (for the ladies) with fruit to follow. All consumed with relish as the sun dipped and the heat of the day left the air. The atmospheric aeronautics followed the packing away of the tables and chairs which, with the first cough of the SE5a’s Wolseley, happened pretty swiftly. I could reminisce for ages but I must just say this; may the Boxkite, Bleriot, the Deperdussin and the rest continue to putter into the sky forever. Generations yet to be born must, as we have, be able to rest their eyes on the precarious but wonderful truth of early flight.
Here in Somerset the skies fill with something quiet different, Naval Wings of might and substance. The meaty Fury hurled aloft by the Centaurus, that double-banked eighteen cylinder monster of a power-plant that whistles and moans in its own wicked way. The Fury’s inertia makes for an almost jet-like performance at low level and bridges the gap between the pistons and jet displays – something it did in reality as she was the final development of the radial for Bristol’s.
No, the sky is a very different place down here, the quality of the light is wonderful in the evenings, particularly in the restful silence following Yeovilton’s Air Day which is coming to us tomorrow, the 13th July. The line-up is always fabulous, the Navy even lets the RAF grandstand for a while with their heavier metal in the form of the Typhoon etc, but for me it is the Swordfish that connects the past to the present.
This beautiful lumbering old girl just flew overhead my house with a Lynx on each wing posing for photographs (another photo-helo in formation). It’s impossible not to get a lump in your throat when you consider what it must have taken to fly at 90kts and 20ft or so in a straight line towards a battleship full of angry Italians with heavy weapons. The Wardroom at HMS heron (RNAS Yeovilton) celebrates Taranto Night with some vigour to this day, the last man standing from the attack I believe is still with us (but don’t quote me).
And then there is the Seafire, she spends a fair amount of time overhead practising for the big day, what more could you wish for on a Summer’s afternoon. Do I need to remind you of the twelve cylinder symphony that accompanies the Seafire? If I do then you, dear reader, have some serious listening to do for this is a sound that never leaves you. Even people ambivalent to flying machines stop dead and listen when a Merlin passes by, many needing to wipe away a small tear for reasons they don’t quiet understand. She is like that is the Merlin, the exceptional Rolls Royce product of all time that powered ships, tanks, aircraft and now tear-ducts.
Well, for one I am on my way to Barbados tomorrow and leaving this glorious weather behind me. I assure you I would rather be in the garden watching the fun overhead. But if you can make it, why not slip down to sun-soaked Somerset for the best day in the year’s aviation calendar. If you can’t make it tomorrow they have a very fine museum at Yeovilton, The Fleet Air Arm Museum which sits right in the thick of helicopter action.
As I prepare to pack my case a Hawk is practising over the airfield.
The Air France accident has had its repercussions as will the spate of over-runs later as airline training departments craft their next Checks. Unreliable Airspeed has emerged as a feature on this seasons ATQP offering.
The blockage, loss or failure of pitot and static systems or air data computers has caused several accidents across the years. Current theories on the loss of AF447 GRU-CDG 1st June 2009 focus on these systems.
A brief description of the issue for anyone not familiar with the nature of the problem, and at systems level it is a complex one and specific to type so I will not comment on the mechanics other than generally.
I hope this gives an insight and overview – it certainly isn’t designed to be a flying lesson “your honour’.
Ever thought of owning something really quite different? How about a three engine transport?
At $3M I think I might take a rain check though, as gorgeous as she is. try the link, the pictures do the old lady justice, they are excellent.
She is for sale of course, try here for the details. Cheque book ready?
Canadian authorities have known for at least five years that the seatbelts in the CT-114 Tutor jets used by the Snowbirds could come open in flight because there was an incident in 2002 similar to the one that led to the most recent fatal crash.
Capt. Shawn McCaughey died in late May after his restraint came undone while he rolled inverted and he lost control of the aircraft during a rehearsal for a show in Great Falls, Mont. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, in 2002, Snowbird Capt. Robert Reichert also fell out of his seat when the belt unfastened while he was inverted. He was able to recover.
However, nothing was done to modify the restraints in the meantime and it wasn’t until after McCaughey’s death that a parachute arming key that is part of the seatbelt latch mechanism was modified to prevent it from interfering with the proper closing of the latch. The team’s executive officer Maj. Cory Blakely told the Globe and Mail all Snowbird pilots were award of the belt problem.
Blakely said the military was in the process of fixing the problem when McCaughey crashed. “It’s definitely something that we were aware of, and I know the system was working on it. The time frame of it was definitely unfortunate,” he said. The ongoing investigation into the crash will examine the timeline of the belt fix, he said. Blakely said he usually double-checks his restraint to ensure it’s properly latched. McCaughey’s father Ken told CTV News that his son complained to him about the seatbelts before the accident. Meanwhile Canadian politicians representing opposition parties in the government are calling for someone to be held accountable for the lack of action on the belt problem. “There really was negligence here and there has to be someone who is held responsible,” said Bloc Quebecois Member of Parliament Claude Bachand.
Incredible isn’t it that the boss of the team allowed them to carry on flying when the problem was known about. He would be the last backstop in the safety chain. One of the givens in the aerobatic game is that the seat straps will hold you in the aircraft. Take that confidence away and you are not left with much.
Difficult to be too prescriptive about this without all the facts but as the Canadian Parliament asserts, someone must be held accountable for negligence which has cost lives.
As I write this I look across the room to see two worn books sitting on the shelf. Weather Flying and Flying Know How were volumes that I pawed through as a lad hoping to glean something I could use ‘up there’ – I wasn’t dissapointed.
Bob Buck wrote beautifully and with great authority. It is sad to see him go but at ninety three I doubt that he would complain about the length of his run.
Aero-News did this piece on him, it covers his life well in a journalistic sense but for me and many others, his quiet conversational tone ‘over my shoulder’ will our lasting memory of him. I don’t know if they have an aviator’s hall of fame in the US, if they do, this man belongs in it. A life well lived I would say from this range. He and Ernie’ Gann should have a lot to talk about up there…. between trips.
Wikipedia on Bob
Aero-News Bob Buck
It is with sadness Aero-News recently learned Robert N. Buck, 93, died April 14 in a Berlin, VT hospital of complications from a fall. The former Trans World Airlines pilot and aviation author set flying records as a teenager in the 1930s and flew severe-weather research missions during World War II.
Buck began his stellar aviation career as a 15-year-old glider pilot in New Jersey in 1929. The longtime AOPA Air Safety Foundation Board of Visitors member flew until he was 88.
“He remembered staring out of the window in ninth grade and dreaming about flying; it was just the love of his life,” daughter Ferris Buck said.
She said her father instructed her and her brother Rob, a retired Delta Airlines pilot, to never hold a formal “celebration of life” for him after his death.
“So we had a party for him at his house Sunday,” she said. “At the end of the party, some of the local pilots did a fly-by, and one young man did incredible stunts over the house.
“A retired pilot friend of mine said, ‘Whenever I saw your father, I was awestruck because he was one of the real aviators, and we just came later,’” she added.
Buck was born in on Jan. 29, 1914, in Elizabethport, NJ and grew up in Westfield. When he was 15, he and a fellow high school student built and flew their own glider, which was towed by a Model A Ford at a local grass airstrip.
In April 1930, the 16-year-old Buck earned his private pilot’s license and set a 15,000-foot junior altitude record three months later.
On September 29, 1930 — reportedly equipped with six chocolate bars and a canteen — Buck climbed into a Pitcairn Mailwing at Newark Airport and took off for Los Angeles making an attempt at the junior transcontinental airspeed record, which he did by an hour and eight minutes.
According to an Associated Press account, the seven-stop flight lasted 28 hours and 33 minutes. Buck set another junior record on his return trip to Newark: 23 hours and 47 minutes, according to his log book.
He told the story of his early days as a pilot in his first book, “Burning Up the Sky,” published in 1931 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. The press dubbed him “The Schoolboy Pilot.”
Buck’s long list of records also included a flight from Newark to Havana in 1931 in 14 hours and 47 minutes, according to the family. He and his parents later met with President Herbert Hoover at the White House, where Buck presented Hoover with a foot-long Cuban cigar.
Buck also established a Newark-to-Mexico City junior record in 1932 of 24 hours and nine minutes, according to a Times account.
Then, in 1936, at the age of 22, Buck established a nonstop long-distance record in a straight flight from Burbank to Columbus, OH. The next year, he joined TWA (then Transcontinental and Western Air) as a co-pilot rising to captain three years later.
“When I was a young captain — and I looked young — some lady said to the hostess, ‘Is that the co-pilot?’ And she said, “No, that’s the captain.’ And she got off the airplane at Pittsburgh,” Buck recalled in a 2002 interview with National Public Radio.
He also flew as a civilian pilot for the Air Transport Command during World War II flying personnel and material to the African and European theaters.
When TWA was awarded an Army Air Forces project to research weather during the war, Buck served as the project’s pilot and manager, flying a B-17 from Alaska to Brazil to investigate radio interference from static caused by precipitation, including rain and snow, according to the Times.
“I was able to put my nose in any kind of weather I wanted to fly through,” he said in the National Public Radio interview. “We’d sit around, waiting until the weather was bad and then go fly through it.”
As a result, he became one of the few civilians to be awarded the Air Medal for his weather research.
Buck was named TWA’s superintendent of flying (chief pilot to us) in 1945 and was command captain in the delivery of the carrier’s first Lockheed Constellation, the modern pressurized, four-engine, high-speed transport of its time.
Buck, who served on weather and air safety committees for what later became NASA, won the Air Line Pilots Assn. Air Safety Award in 1963. He also served on the FAA’s Supersonic Transport Committee.
He flew a DC-3 with actor Tyrone Power on a 20th Century Fox publicity trip through South America, Africa and Europe. Power, who had been a Marine C-46 Transport pilot during the war, did a majority of the flying and became a close friend of Buck.
In 1965, he made a round-the-world trip that covered both poles flying a Boeing 707 in shifts with several other pilots. In 1970, he inaugurated TWA’s New York-to-London and New York-to-Paris 747 service.
He was forced into retirement from TWA at the requisite age of 60 in 1974 but continued to fly general aviation aircraft, including sailplanes.
Buck’s 1970 book “Weather Flying,” is considered a must-read for pilots. He also wrote “Flying Know-How,” “The Art of Flying,” “The Pilot’s Burden: Flying Safely and the Roots of Pilot Error” and “North Star Over My Shoulder,” his 2002 memoir.
“Bob Buck was indeed captain to a whole generation of pilots,” said Dr. Ian Blair Fries, a fellow Air Safety Foundation Board of Visitors member. “His ‘Weather Flying’ began as a giveaway brochure for an aviation insurance company and grew into the best commentary we have on flying and weather. His thoughtful proposal to the novice on how to tackle easy weather situations first still provides the best way to assess the difficulty of any IFR flight. We who have known him have been honored and will miss his sage advice.”
Buck was preceded in death by his wife of 66 years, Jean, in 2004, but he continued to live independently, his daughter said.
“The night before he fell down, he made dinner for my husband and me — beef brisket and homemade pumpkin pie,” she said. “He did all his own mowing and cooking. He really was a remarkable man.”
Robert N. Buck has gone west. For most, the skies there are clear… but we imagine Buck was greeted by some stormy weather. And he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Richard Bach is an interesting soul, his writing was instrumental in shaping my early flying aspirations – mine and probably several million others. One book in particular, A Gift of Wings, captured my imagination completely; I have lost count of the number of copies I have bought and either given away or had ‘appropriated’ over the years.
He made his name as far as the general public were concerned with Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and then (as far as I am concerned) in his later work rambled off into a line of thought that feels like it found its foundations from the hippy trail – just a bit too ethereal and disjointed for my taste.
Although JLS was an exceptional seller, for me A Gift of Wings stands out as his masterpiece. It is a collection of short stories, some based loosely around philosophical ideas but all tied tightly to the world of pure flight and the love of it. Funnily enough I have only just acquired another copy and am working my way back through it, the writing has lost nothing of its power; the odd shiver still weaves its way down my spine. Try ‘Cat’ for a taster….
Yes, his work might try the patience of the hardier, practically minded technocrats amongst us; but Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and A Gift of Wings will live forever as classic aviation literature and enthuse generations of kids (who want to clatter or soar around the sky so badly it hurts) for many generations to come.
A bit more from Wikipedia about Richard Bach
He served in the USAF Reserve as a pilot, and afterwards worked a variety of jobs. He later became a barnstormer. Most of his books involve flight in some way, from the early stories which are straightforwardly about flying aircraft to his later works in which he used flight as a philosophical metaphor. One of his greatest books that many pilots love is A Gift of Wings.
In 1970, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about a seagull who flew for the sake of flying rather than merely to catch food, was published by Macmillan Publishers after the manuscript was turned down by many other publishers. The book, which included unique photos of seagulls in flight, became a number one best-seller on both the fiction and non-fiction lists. The book contained fewer than 10,000 words, yet it broke all hardcover sales records since Gone with the Wind. It sold more than 1,000,000 copies in 1972 alone. The surprise success of the book was widely reported in the media in the early 1970s.
In 1973, the book was turned into a movie produced by Paramount Pictures Corporation. The movie included a soundtrack by Neil Diamond.
I have followed with interest the debate about whether or not these pilots lost a bomber in their care whilst flying fighter escort. For some reason the claim is being made that they did, the evidence points to the reverse case though the fog of war must be still making its contribution.
I met one such airman many years ago, he was designing car interiors for Vauxall Motors in Luton as I remember. His name was ‘Arc’ and he flew the P51 for the 15th. He gave testimony to the discrimination they received during the war but stood well above it as he described his time with the unit. If they were anything like him I doubt there are many readers who would not have been honored to serve with them.
Here is an article from Avweb that makes things a little clearer for those similarly interested.
“Were bombers shot down by enemy fighters while the Tuskegee airmen were in the sky? The answer is yes. However, the Tuskegee Airmen can also state with accuracy that, while under their protection, no bomber was shot down.
The Tuskegee Airmen were a fighter group stationed with the 15th Air Force in Italy. Most people are not even aware that the 15th AF existed, because so little has been written about it. Virtually all books cover the 8th AF in England. The 15th was much smaller than the 8th. The 15th consisted of five B-17 bomber groups, about 20 B-24 bomber groups, and several P-38 and P-51 fighter groups. My grandfather commanded one of the B-17 groups. The Tuskegee Airmen were one of the P-51 fighter groups.
The 15th AF bombed targets in Germany, Poland, Austria, and Western Europe every day that weather permitted. A given bomber group did not fly a mission every day. There was some rotation. Usually, a group had two or three days off between missions. For maximum-effort periods, though, a bomber group did fly two or three days in a row. The fighter groups flew under the same arrangement. The five B-17 groups usually bombed the same target, while the B-24 groups bombed other targets. The 15th AF was not organized the same as, and did not fly the same formations as, the 8th AF did. Each 15th AF bomb group contributed about 30 bombers to a given mission.
All bombers within a group flew in a tight formation together, but groups did not join up with each other. Rather, the groups flew about five miles apart in a stream along the same flight path, so there was a lot of empty sky between each group. The five B-17 groups, for example, made up a stream about 20-miles long. One fighter group was assigned escort duty to protect the bombers. There was no way, however, that the fighters could protect every group in the 20-mile string all at once. So they hopped from group to group, eventually making their way along the entire 20-mile stream.
The enemy fighter pilots were not stupid. They simply attacked the bomber groups that weren’t currently being escorted. When the escort fighters were up with the lead bomber group, the enemy fighters attacked a bomber group further back, and vise versa.
So while it can be said that bombers were shot down, it can also be said that the Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber they were protecting to enemy fighters. They successfully protected the bombers they were with at the moment. It isn’t fair for someone to claim the Tuskegee Airmen (or any fighter group) were responsible for losing a bomber that was five or more miles away from them.”
Ford J. Lauer III
Tuskeegee Airmen – Facts
Tuskegee Airmen Listing
The Telegraph has reported the passing of yet another legend of the British aviation scene. I will leave it to the professionals at the paper who do it so well to present you his obituary.
Strange isn’t it that wrinkled singers of popular songs, showbiz personalities and other ‘faces’ receive acknowledgement, fanfare and honors by the dozen?
Read of Neville Duke’s contribution to our nation and ponder on the level of his reward for services rendered. I think a Knighthood might have been appropriate at some stage, don’t you? In the absence of that, perhaps a little assistance with this problem below would have been more appreciated. A grateful nation and a land fit for heroes?
The Telegraph, 2005
One of the most decorated British fighter pilots of the Second World War has sold his medals, diaries and other memorabilia partly to pay for a hip replacement operation for his wife who faced at least a six-month wait on the National Health Service.
Sqn Ldr Neville Duke, 83, the Royal Air Force’s top-scoring ace in the Mediterranean theatre who set a world air speed record of 728 mph in 1953, put the collection up for auction rather than subject his wife Gwen to months of pain and discomfort while she waited for an operation.
The standard waiting time for hip replacements in the orthopaedic department at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, one of the nearest facilities to the Dukes’ home, is six months.
Mrs Duke, who has been in pain with her hip for eight months, was told by her chiropractor that the wait might be 15 months.
Before the sale Mrs Duke, 85, explained: “It is very likely I will need a new hip and that is something we just cannot afford. If I went on a NHS waiting list I would have to wait forever, and at my age that’s no good.
‘By selling Neville’s things we will be able to pay for the hip. We pulled out of BUPA because they practically doubled the rate when we reached 60.
Buy his book
Thank you Sir, rest well.
I have just read Geoff Wellum’s book ‘First Light’ for the second time and confirmed it in my mind as the definitive account of life as a fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain.
It is exceptional in that it’s refreshingly devoid of the ’40s Pathe News’ fighter pilot blarney that you find in many accounts of the battle. This man lived and flew through a passage of our national history that must have had more written about it than almost any other; to have added a passage to the record so relevant and beautifully written is a major achievement.
If you fly and have wondered what it must be like to be a new boy on a fighter squadron in 1940, read this book. He relates flying experiences and detail in a way I have not read before. The sense of immediacy that he creates is magnificent, it is as if he has rolled back time and re-run his part of the Battle. Brave man, superb writer.
Probably the most beautiful sound ever heard in the sky – the 12 cylinder symphony.
Thank you Geoff, for your book and so much more.
Update – 14th September 2010 http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/6142928/the-89yearold-boy.thtml
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