Since Top Gun and innumerable movies before it, sunglasses seem to have played a role in the way the public perceives aviators. The ‘cool’ of the huge pearl shaped Ray Bans™ turned TC into a cheesy icon, ‘kept the sun out of his eyes and emphasized yet again the importance of that essential accessory, sunglasses, ‘Sunnies’ as Australians call them. RBs don’t do it for me.
I have always had an eye on the Randolph® product, in the late seventies they were the height of cool and have always seemed to me to be practical with their flat side-stems and Mil-Spec construction standards. The USAF liked them and so did I, they would slide under a helmet without puncturing silicon filled ear pieces that then soaked your neck with body temperature guck. I have always craved a pair, and now that they have their own Classical position in history, they appeared on my doorstep!
It was a very pleasant surprise for me when John White dropped me a line to ask if I would be interested in ‘doing a piece’ on the Randolphs, he sells them through his website and as I discovered, believes in them. ‘Sure, why not’ I said. To my delight he sends a pair across from the US, in fact I have them on my desk in front of me as I write.
My plan was to write a review post on a trip to Buenos Aires, although flown mostly in the dark, the flight’s arrival and departure on the return sector happen in the sunshine – an ideal opportunity to nail together some feedback from colleagues. In the event it didn’t turn out that well as the whole crew (four of us) used corrective lenses and the others were a little shy. A quick ‘Chicago’ provided the next opportunity. Enter ‘Ivan’, my first officer and the perfect candidate to provide feedback. He never wears sunglasses, “never has” – he doesn’t like wearing them, Dang! After some begging and simpering from me he finally agrees to give them a try.
Those who understand the mysteries of how the world works will know that when flying East at jet speeds the sun sets very rapidly. When going West you are chasing the sun down, so it sets very, very slowly. In the process of setting we all know that the sun comes towards the horizon before slipping into bed for the night. What a useful characteristic this was on this flight as it gave Ivan plenty of opportunity to benefit from the power of tinted, optically perfect glass – Randolph® glass.
Ivan and I chatted for hours, did all the usual pilot stuff, reading, writing etc, eventually we started down across Lake Mitchigan towards The Windy City and 27L at O’Hare. We turned onto the gate and after rolling to a halt, shut down. I looked across at Ivan who on completion of the shutdown checklist had started to pack away charts and prepare for our exit. “Do you think I could have the Randolphs back now please Ivan?” I said. He was still wearing them…
I could give you a bunch of words that describe the sunglasses but I won’t, I will direct you instead to John’s and Randolph’s own websites with the graphic links below for you to gather your own research. What I will say is this, Ivan never took them off and was actually very positive about them. When I asked about comfort he had found them to be excellent, in fact ceased to notice that he was wearing them, even as dark approached. They didn’t change his mind about wearing sunglasses generally of course as he… well, he doesn’t ‘do’ sunglasses.
I love them, of course I had to pay import duty on them even though they were gift. I will be taking them to my optician and having Nikon grey tinted vari-focal lenses fitted, the frames are superb, I don’t think I have ever come across a better made set of Sunnies, period. I will be using them until I retire and beyond – with the flat stems they fit comfortably under a particularly uncomfortable headset made by <redacted>. Bearing in mind we often wear headsets on ultra long-haul flights for up to six hours at a stretch, I think that is quite a tribute. Had I not liked them I assure you I would have popped them in the post back to the USA and not written a word.
If you fancy a pair of these for yourself, why not talk to John, he has a fine, informative blog, ‘All things Aviation’ that’s well worth a visit. I discovered across a few emails that he is a man of his word, we used to live within five miles of each other in the ’80s when he worked for Uncle Sam and I flew charter. What a small world this is.
British Airways is running a new add campaign where the pilot is the focus of attention. It is a low pressure and light hearted look at what our people get up to in their spare time. Based around the achievers and the unusual it peeps into some interesting corners.
Few aerial spectacles halt toil with the leaf rake like balloons. They creep up silently then roar sending collie dogs scatty. Apparently they think the moon is about to land.
Every time that volcano poops into the atmosphere it costs someone somewhere millions. The devastating effect it’s having on air travel is unprecedented. We are used to these things happening in the remoter regions or perhaps in the Caribbean, that’s fair play and par for the course. Having a strategically placed vent on the earths crust that can close down ALL Atlantic traffic is… well, plain unsporting.
New Zealand mechanic Rudy Heeman has just developed a two passenger hovercraft that has the ability to lift off, leaving other water based craft in its wake. The hovercaft is has been developed over the last eleven years. Its’ optimum height is about 4ft 6in above the water. The hoverwing sets off like a normal-hovercraft but when it reaches top speed of 60mph, its wings can be extended and it takes flight. Rudy Heeman believes there may be a commercial market for his creation-the hoverwing. He believes that his invention is an extremely efficient method of transport, travelling at about 6ft over the water and reaching speeds of over 60mph across the surface.
Heeman Officially calls this invention a ‘wing in ground effect vehicle’ – a hovercraft which is able to fly due to a set of unusual aerodynamics. Heeman’s first test flight actually ended in a crash landing. He was lucky and escaped with only a bruised leg. After the accident Heeman made adjustments to the Hovercraft and now believes the hoverwing is ready, but Mr Heeman has yet to decide who to choose.
What a blast that must be! Licensing this device might prove to be a little interesting? I can’t imagine for one moment that the NZ authorities will ignore it or will fail to insist on some kind of certification. In the wrong hands its potential for causing a little consternation on the boating lake or down the coast is considerable. A whole new angle on ‘flipping and dicing’ if the thing turns over – still, not half as much fun as the craft below.
Whilst awake in the early hours I was wandering around my bookmarks and came across this one. A friend who comes from a line of cerebrally gifted individuals had mentioned TED to me and recommended I visit. I set up a download of six short video clips whilst I goofed off doing other stuff.
What followed was quite amazing. If you have a curious mind, try TED. The quality of the ideas and delivery produced by some of the brightest people on the planet will blow you away. Listening to a neuroscientist talking about her own stroke and the effect it had upon her with such raw and beautiful humanity was a privilege that I don’t think you could find anywhere else.
We live in a cynical world where money seems to define our value to society. Where the amount you can swindle in the most outrageous fashion from your employer, the government or your customers applies a sheen of cleverness buffeted only by the tenacious press and their vain calls for an accounting.
What of the soldier? Recent conflicts have seen him reviled for carrying out the mission directed by his political masters, blamed for excesses metered out by the frightened or as is becoming increasingly apparent, the darkly directed.
When the fighting is over and the players on all sides quietly leave the stage, it is those who took part who are left to deal with their injuries, both visible and hidden. Mercifully time heals most, but certainly not all. In unguarded moments the wounds of the Somme could be seen written across the faces of those gallent centenarians as they talked to the camera, the last of whom has now rejoined his friends.
Sleep well after 113 years of life Henry Allingham, the last founder member of the Royal Air Force. The man who in realising his ability to make a statement that would echo around the World decided to ask that as a species we never again visit the misery on ourselves that he and his friends had to deal with.
What currency can possibly have value when a nation wants to honour the warrior and mark sacrifice?
Stealth technology developed by the Third Reich? That might be stretching the imagination but their aerodynamic research and design capability still inspires wonder. The Germans still pour money and energy into aerodynamics both through Airbus and the glider research and manufacture industry. They are acknowledged masters in the field.
National Geographic clearly love the subject… so do I.
24-hours observation of all of the large aircraft flights in the world, condensed down to about 2 minutes.
This is a 24-hours observation of all of the large aircraft flights in the world, condensed down to about 2 minutes. From space, we look like a bee-hive of activity! You could tell it was summer time in the north by the sun’s footprint over the planet. You could see that it didn’t quite set in the extreme north and it didn’t quite rise in the extreme south. Here is where it came from. Best quality here.
I have just watched the the program via iPlayer. A tip – if you live anywhere other than the UK you cannot watch BBC iPlayer, access is blocked. Unless that is, you have access to a VPN (a Virtual Private Network) then you can log in to iPlayer and watch the content.
What an excellent presenter May is, he manages to engage his audience without insulting their intelligence or engaging in technical banter at a level that loses them. Quite a feat when describing the Apollo program which clearly absolutely absorbs him. I am with him there, the more I see and read the more the scope of those missions fire the imagination. They were bold, very bold and allegedly run with far less computer power than the average mobile phone today. I still keep shaking my head…
Houston Space Centre is well worth the visit and so must Kennedy be. When standing next to the Saturn 5 the sheer scale of the rocketry and audacity of the missions is mind blowing. Like James and a billion others I watched the Apollo missions on black and white TV. Like him I clearly didn’t absorb fully the gravity of what they were about. This is a tremendous piece of television and to cap it all, my favorite band Elbow provide some of the background music.
Further reading, perhaps one of the best stories from with the Apollo missions from a man uniquly positioned to give you the inside track – the Mission Controller of Apollo 13 and many more. If you get the chance, when wandering around the exhibits at the Houston centre, look up at the Gemini capsule suspended above the walkways and imagine what would have happened if they had been unable to stow and relock the egress hatches after their walk in space as they orbited the planet. Then take a close look at the construction of the capsules of the era. Balls of steel!
One reviewer whose reading experience matched mine.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars An accessible account of a great period of exploration, 30 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This book is a joy for anyone remotely interested in the US space program. Kranz, a key member of mission control throughout the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs talks frankly about the people and technology directly involved in man’s journey to the moon. Never getting loaded with technical jargon, Kranz has blended his personality into this hi-tech story to create an accessible and heart-warming read. His account of the fire of Apollo 1 is searingly painful for it’s simplicity, the excitement of being Flight Director for the Apollo 11 moon landing like a beautiful scent wafting up from the pages of this book.
How wonderful also for him to acknowledge the invaluable role played by his wife, when so many other marriages in this stressful time were failing.
I agree wholeheartedly with the reviews on the back of this book – it is a very welcome addition the lore of manned spaceflight. A must for all those interested in this topic.