For World War II and aviation buffs, this is terrific history…
The U.S. civilian population maintained a dedicated effort for four years, many working long hours seven days per week and often also volunteering for other work. WWII was the largest human effort in history.
THE PRICE OF VICTORY (cost of an aircraft in WWII dollars)
PLANES A DAY WORLDWIDE
THE NUMBERS GAME
WWII MOST-PRODUCED COMBAT AIRCRAFT
Yakolev Yak-1,-3,-7,-9 31,000+
Messerschmitt Bf-109 30,480
Focke-Wulf Fw-190 29,001
Sources: Rene Francillon, Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific war; Cajus Bekker, The Luftwaffe Diaries; Ray Wagner, American Combat Planes; Wikipedia.
Think about those numbers. They average 1,170 aircraft accidents per month — nearly 40 a day. (Less than one accident in four resulted in totaled aircraft, however.)
It gets worse…..
In a single 376 plane raid in August 1943, 60 B-17s were shot down. That was a 16 percent loss rate and meant 600 empty bunks in England. In 1942-43 it was statistically impossible for bomber crews to complete a 25-mission tour in Europe.
Pacific theatre losses were far less (4,530 in combat) owing to smaller forces committed. The worst B-29 mission, against Tokyo on May 25, 1945, cost 26 Superfortresses, 5.6 percent of the 464 dispatched from the Marianas.
U.S. manpower made up the deficit. The AAF’s peak strength was reached in 1944 with 2,372,000 personnel, nearly twice the previous year’s figure.
The losses were huge—but so were production totals. From 1941 through 1945, American industry delivered more than 276,000 military aircraft. That number was enough not only for U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps, but for allies as diverse as Britain, Australia, China and Russia. In fact, from 1943 onward, America produced more planes than Britain and Russia combined. And more than Germany and Japan together 1941-45.
A future P-47 ace said, ”I was sent to England to die.” He was not alone. Some fighter pilots tucked their wheels in the well on their first combat mission with one previous flight in the aircraft. Meanwhile, many bomber crews were still learning their trade: of Jimmy Doolittle’s 15 pilots on the April 1942 Tokyo raid, only five had won their wings before 1941. All but one of the 16 copilots were less than a year out of flight school.
In WWII flying safety took a back seat to combat. The AAF’s worst accident rate was recorded by the A-36 Invader version of the P-51: a staggering 274 accidents per 100,000 flying hours. Next worst were the P-39 at 245, the P-40 at 188, and the P-38 at 139. All were Allison powered.
Bomber wrecks were fewer but more expensive. The B-17 and B-24 averaged 30 and 35 accidents per 100,000 flight hours, respectively– a horrific figure considering that from 1980 to 2000 the Air Force’s major mishap rate was less than 2.
The B-29 was even worse at 40; the world’s most sophisticated, most capable and most expensive bomber was too urgently needed to stand down for mere safety reasons. The AAF set a reasonably high standard for B-29 pilots, but the desired figures were seldom attained. The original cadre of the 58th Bomb Wing was to have 400 hours of multi-engine time, but there were not enough experienced pilots to meet the criterion. Only ten percent had overseas experience. Conversely, when a $2.1 billion B-2 crashed in 2008, the Air Force initiated a two-month “safety pause” rather than declare a “stand down,” let alone grounding.
The B-29 was no better for maintenance. Though the R3350 was known as a complicated, troublesome power-plant, no more than half the mechanics had previous experience with the Duplex Cyclone. But they made it work.
Cadet To Colonel:
WW II Trivia:
787 Features & Differences
The formatting is somewhat messed up, but it’s an interesting read, it shows how
aviation technology is progressing.Post courtesy of 787 certified Pilot… ‘John Doe’Thanks John..I just hope that in emergencies, the
pilots will be able to recognize what’s going on and take proper measures
to save the plane and its precious cargo, unlike the Air France pilots
whose training and situational awareness were so tragically flawed.
Over-reliance on technology can lead to complacency, confusion, and
Catastrophe.I just completed the first pilot training class on the 787 at United
Airlines, an airplane which is destined to replace the 767 and live
for many years after I retire. Here’s what I’ve learned in 787 training so
far. By the way, last night we passed our MV (maneuvers validation) check
ride, with emergency after emergency, and the FAA observing.Tonight was our LOE
(line-oriented evaluation) [LOFT], again with FAA – this time 2 FAA
observers. It’s 0200 and I just got back to the hotel and poured a
well-earned glass of wine to celebrate. I now have a type rating in
the 787.Phew. I’m pretty confident this will be the last one for me.
I’ve summarized some of the major differences and unique features
of the 787 versus more traditional “old school” airplanes like the 777 (not
kidding) – from the pilot’s viewpoint. Our “Differences” course
takes 11 days to gain an FAA type rating, which is a “common” type
rating with the 777.The course has been like ‘drinking from a fire hose’,
but has finally come together. Some of our pilots attended Boeing’s 5-day
differences course, and deemed it unacceptable. The FAA approved the
Boeing 5-day course, but our guys decided it lacked too much information.
FAA is observing our check rides now, and taking our course as well, to
certify the training. We’re just the guinea pigs.Computer nerds would describe the787, as 17 computer servers packaged in a Kevlar frame. The central brains arethe Common Core System (CCS). Two Common Computing Resources (CCRs)coordinate the communications of all the computer systems, isolating faultsand covering failed systems with working systems.When battery power is first applied to the airplane in the morning,
it takes about 50 seconds for the LCCR to boot up. After this, a few displays
light up, and you can start the APU. If there is a major loss of cockpit
displays, this may require a CCR reboot, which would take about a minute.Here are a few of the major features and differences from the 777.Electrics – Though a smaller plane, the 787 has 4 times the electric
generating power of the 777 – 1.4 ‘Gigawatts’. Generators produce 235
VAC for the big power users.Other systems use the traditional 115 VAC and 28 VDC.There are 17 scattered Remote Power Distribution
Units which power about 900 loads throughout the plane. The big power
distribution system, is in the aft belly, along with a Power Electronics Cooling
System (PECS).This is a liquid cooling system for the large motor, power
distribution system. There’s also an Integrated Cooling System (ICS),
which provides refrigerated air, for the galley carts and cabin air, and a
Miscellaneous Equipment Cooling System for Inflight Entertainment
Equipment.IF 3 of the 4 engine generators fail, the APU starts itself. The APU
drives two generators, and can be operated up to the airplane’s max
altitude of 43 000 feet.IFyou lose all 4 engine generators, the
RAT (ram air turbine) drops out (like a windmill), powering essential
buses. (It also provides hydraulic power to flight controls if needed).IF you lose all 4 engine generators and the two APU generators (a
really bad day), you are down to Standby Power. The RAT will drop out and
provide power but even if it fails, you still have the autopilot and captain’s
flight director and instruments, FMC, 2 IRSs, VHF radios, etc.IF you’re
down to batteries only, with no RAT, you’d better get it on the ground, as
battery time is limited. Brakes and anti-skid are electric – 28V – so you
don’t lose brakes or anti-skid, even when you’re down to just standby power.Normal flight controls are hydraulic with a couple exceptions.Engine driven and electric hydraulic pumps, operate at 5000 psi (versus normal
3000 psi), to allow for smaller tubing sizes and actuators, thus saving weight.IF you lose all 3 hydraulic systems (another bad day), you still have twospoiler panels on each wing which are electrically powered all the time, asis the stabilizer trim. You can still fly the airplane (no flaps, though).IF you’re having an even worse day and you lose all hydraulics and all generators, flightcontrol power is still coming from separate Permanent Magnet Generators(PMGs) which produce power, even if both engines quit and are windmilling.IF the PMGs fail, too, your flight controls will be powered by the 28 V standby bus.IF you lose all 3 pitot/static systems or air data computers, the airplane
reverts to angle of attack speed (converts AOA to IAS), and this is
displayed on the normal PFDs (primary flight displays) airspeed indicator
tapes. GPS altitude is substituted for air data altitude and displayed on
the PFD altimeter tapes. Very convenient.IF you lose both Attitude and Heading Reference Units (AHRUs), it
reverts to the standby instrument built-in attitude & heading gyro, but
displays this on both pilot’s PFDs for convenience.IF you lose both Inertial Reference Units, it will substitute GPS
position, and nothing is lost.IF someone turns one or both IRSs off in flight (I hate it when they do that),you can realign them… as long as one of the GPSs is working!There is No pneumatic system. The only engine bleed, is used for that
engine’s anti-ice. Wing anti-ice is electric. Each of two air conditioning
packs control two CACs, which are electric cabin air compressors. The
four CACs share two air inlets on the belly. Each pack controller controls
two CACs, but if a pack controller fails, the remaining pack controller takes
over control of all 4 CACs.There are No circuit breakers in the cockpit. To check on them, or
if you get a message that one has opened (more likely), you select the CBIC
(circuit breaker indication and control) display on one of the MFDs(multi function displays). There you can reset the virtual C/B if
it is an “electronic” circuit breaker. You can’t reset a popped
“thermal” circuit breaker.IF you have an APU fire on the ground or inflight, the fire
extinguishing bottle is automatically discharged.IF there is a cargo fire, the
first two, of seven bottles will automatically discharge also.There’s a Nitrogen Generation System which provides Automatic full-
time flammability protection, by displacing fuel vapors in the fuel
tanks with Nitrogen.Like the 767 and 777, the 787 also has full CPDLC capability
(controller-to-pilot datalink communications). In addition, its
full FANS capability includes ADS-B in & out. The controller can uplink speed,
heading and altitude changes to the airplane. These show up on a second line
right under the speed, heading and altitude displays on the mode control
panel.IF your pilot wants to use them, he can press a XFR button next to each
window. The controller can even uplink a conditional clearance, like. After
passing point XYZ, climb to FL390. If you accept this, it will do it automatically.Fuel system – like the 777, the 787 has a fuel dump system, which
automatically dumps down to your maximum landing weight, if that is
what you want. In addition, it has a Fuel Balance switch, which
automatically balances your L & R main tanks for you. No more opening
crossfeed valves and turning off fuel pumps in flight. No more
forgetting to turn them back on, either.Flight Controls – An “Autodrag” function operates when the airplane
is high on approach and landing flaps have been selected. It extends the
ailerons and two most outboard spoilers, while maintaining airspeed, to
assist in glidepath capture from above, if you are high on the glideslope. The
feature removes itself, below 500 feet.Cruiseflaps is an automated function, when level at cruise. It symmetrically
moves the flaps, ailerons, flaperons, and spoilers based on weight,
airspeed and altitude, to optimize cruise performance, by varying the wing
camber, thus reducing drag.Gust suppression – Vertical gust suppression enhances ride quality
when in vertical gusts and turbulence. It uses symmetric deflection of
flaperons and elevators to smooth the bumps. This should result in fewer
whitecaps in passengers’ coffee and cocktails. Lateral gust suppression improves
the ride, when on approach, by making yaw commands in response to lateral gusts and turbulence.Instrument Approaches -The airplane is actually approved for
Autoland, based not only on ILS, but on GLS approaches – GPS with Ground based
augmentation system, which corrects the GPS signals. GLS minimums are the same
as CAT I ILS – 200′ and 1/2 mile visibility.Our airline is not yet approved
for GLS Autolandings, though we will be doing GLS approaches.Special Cat I & II HUD approaches – These allow lower than normal
minimums when the Heads Up Devices are used at certain approved airports(HUDs).The HUDs includes runway centerline guidance, which helps you stay on the
centerline on takeoff, when visibility is greatly reduced. It uses either ILS or GLS for this.Cabin – Pressurization. Differential pressure maximum is 9.4 psid,
so the cabin altitude is only 6000 feet, when at the max cruising altitude of
43,000 feet. There is a cockpit humidifier switch, and cabin air humidification
is fully automatic.Cabin windows are larger than other airplanes, and
window shading is electronic. The passenger can select 5 levels of
shading, from clear to black. The flight attendants can control the cabinlighting temperature, mood lighting, to aid in dealing with changing time zonesevening light after dinner, morning light to wake up, etc.Much of the cockpit seems like it was designed by Apple. The Control
Display Units (CDUs) are virtual, so you can move them from one MFD to
another. In fact, you can configure the displays in 48 different
ways, I think though, we have found a few favorites we will use to
keep it simple.To move the cursor from one MFD to another, you can either
use a button, or you can “flick” your finger across the
trackpad (Cursor Control Device) to fling the cursor from one
screen to the next – much like an iPad.I’m going home this morning, and will return for a 777 simulator ride,
Before I go back to work. They want to make sure we’ve still got the
old-fashioned legacy airplane in our brain before we fly the 777 again, even
though it shares a “common type rating”.We won’t get the first 787 until October, and begin operations in November or December.At that time I’ll return for at least 4 days refresher training, before beginning IOE initial
operating experience in the airplane…. with passengers.What a ride. It may be “fuel efficient”, but I’m glad someone else is
paying for the gas.
P.S. If you wish to share this with someone else, be my guest. I think the
787 will be a great plane, but there could be some surprises with
this level of innovation. Time will tell. Thanks!
A mid-air collision on February 1, 1943, between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area, became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II. An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named All American, piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron. When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17.
The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through, connected only at two small parts of the frame. The radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged. There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4 feet wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunners turret.
Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed, except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft still flew – miraculously! The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane.
The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart. While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.
When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.
The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the All American. Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.
Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They also radioed to the base describing that the empennage was waving like a fish tail and that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been “used” so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it.
Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear.
When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.
This story gives the term Test Pilot a whole new meaning. Joe Kittinger is not a household aviation name like Neil Armstrong or Chuck Yeager. But what he did for the U. S. space program is comparable. On Aug. 16, 1960, as research for the then-fledgling US space program, Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger rode a helium balloon to the edge of space, 102,800 feet above the earth, a feat in itself.
Then, wearing just a thin pressure suit and breathing supplemental oxygen, he leaned over the cramped confines of his gondola and jumped–into the 110-degree-below-zero, near-vacuum of space. Within seconds his body accelerated to 714mph in the thin air, breaking the sound barrier. After free-falling for more than four and a half minutes, slowed finally by friction from the heavier air below, he felt his parachute open at 14,000 feet, and he coasted gently down to the New Mexico desert floor.
Kittinger‘s feat showed scientists that astronauts could survive the harshness of space with just a pressure suit and that man could eject from aircraft at extreme altitudes and survive.
I took a calculated risk, that I might lose use of my right hand. It quickly swelled up, and I did lose use for the duration of the flight. But the rest of the pressure suit worked. When I reached 102,800 feet, maximum altitude, I wasn’t quite over the target.
You can see about 400 miles in every direction. The formula is 1.25 x the sq. root of the altitude in thousands of feet. (the square root of 102,000 ft is 319 X 1.25 = 399 miles)
Name: Al Slader, co-pilot … Dave Cronin Capt
Flight: United Flight 811, Honolulu to Auckland, New Zealand
Date: February 24, 1989
Incident: Explosive decompression owing to cargo-door failure
We were about 72 miles from Honolulu, approaching 23,000 feet, when the cockpit door blew open. It felt like a bomb.
Mark Thomas, our flight engineer, went down the spiral staircase to see what was going on in the cabin. From where he stood, he could see no airplane—just sky and clouds and water. He came back and said, “The whole side of the airplane’s gone, and we’ve got people outside.” He meant that they’d died. He’d tried to talk to flight attendants but couldn’t because the noise was so bad. We found out later they didn’t even know if any of us in the cockpit were alive.
In a situation like that, the first thing you try and do is just keep the airplane in the air. We had two engines out, which meant we were a good 150,000 pounds heavier than the two remaining engines could sustain. We had about 220,000 pounds of fuel, which we could dump, but a Boeing 747 only dumps 5,000 pounds a minute, which wasn’t fast enough. So there was no doubt we were going to go down. It was just a matter of where.
In a decompression, the first thing pilots are supposed to do is put on the oxygen masks. Well, guess where the oxygen bottles were stored? Right next to the door. So when we put the masks on, there was no oxygen. We threw them on the floor.
After we established communication in the cockpit, the next step was to descend to breathable air, which the FAA considers to be 10,000 feet. As the pilot, Dave Cronin, started the descent, Mark Thomas and I were trying to figure out what systems we had left. I shut the two engines off at the fuel switch, which put the fire out that was shooting out of No. 4. According to United’s procedure for severe engine damage, the next step would have been to pull what’s called the firewall shutoff. But that would have meant losing two hydraulic systems and half of our flight control. We would have ended up in the water, for sure. So I abandoned protocol.
Dave did, too. He was supposed to get us to 10,000 feet as fast as possible, but with the second engine shut down he realized what we needed most of all was altitude. Nobody was going to die breathing at 20,000 feet, and we’d never make it to the airport if we continued our descent.
We had reversed course back to Honolulu, and we were just trying to get as close to the airport as we could. The explosion occurred over water 17,000 feet deep. We hoped we could at least get to the beach or the shallow water, where if we had to put the airplane in the water, Coast Guard might be able to help. By the time we got to 8,000 feet, I called Honolulu and said, “We may not be able to make it.”
But we were dumping fuel the whole way, which was making us lighter and helping us do a little better.
Finally I said, “My God, we’re gonna make it!” Landing wasn’t going to be easy, though. We didn’t know how much damage the airplane had sustained. Did we still have brakes? Would the landing gear come down? Would the flaps come down evenly, or would the airplane roll over on its back?
At about 4,000 feet we went through a layer of clouds and the airport came into view. The tower cleared us to land on the longest runway available. We started to try to get the flaps out, but sure enough, we ended up with an asymmetric flap condition.
Dave turned to Mark Thomas, the flight engineer, and asked for our approach. But all of Mark’s flight procedures and tables for landing weights had blown out of the cockpit. “I have no idea,” Mark said. “I don’t have any books or manuals or any of the stuff I need to do that.”
“Well, what do you think we should use?”
“Two hundred knots,” Mark said. He just pulled it out of the air. “Yeah, that’s a good one. Let’s use 200 knots.”
So that’s what we did. A half-mile out, Mark yelled through the PA: “Brace! Brace! Brace!” Dave held the landing gear until the last minute because we didn’t need drag, we needed power. We landed, and immediately the fire department started putting out fires. We’d been in the air for 22 minutes since the explosion.
I was the last one out of the plane. I walked through the cabin with my flashlight to make sure everybody was out. All the suction toward the front of the plane had torn out the projectors, the overhead bins, even the toilets. The first five rows of seats were gone.
A lot of pilots say, “God, I’m glad that was you and not me.” But you know what? We train and practice all sorts of emergency procedures our entire career. To take the final test, the big test, and pass it—I wouldn’t trade that. I think a lot of guys who fly airplanes would love to take the big test and find out if they could pass it.
I was at a restaurant in Denver a while back, and one of the guys from the flight, a lawyer, was having dinner with a friend. I hear this guy yell, “Slader! Slader!” And he jumps up and he’s walking through the restaurant, yelling, “This guy saved my life!” And he turns to the waiter and says, “Whatever he wants, give it to him and send the check to me.” I was embarrassed, but, yeah, sure, it made me happy.
After receiving the P-51 story:
I got this from Bobby Fisher on the 18th, and today I send it along as a message of thanks……. thanks to men who used these planes to keep us free of Nazi and Japanese enslavement, and thanks that life still offers the joys of seeing and remembering beautiful machines and the delight of seeing them fly, and flying them.
I was in the pattern at Lakefront Airport in 1962, flying out necessary solo hours in Hobley-Maynard’s 65HP Luscombe 8A, when the tower directed me to anchor on the downwind leg in 360 turns until called back into traffic. There was opposing traffic inbound. Although it seems to take forever, getting to the downwind leg in a Hobley-Wobbly Luscombe 8 doesn’t take you very far away from the runway.
I saw a Bearcat at my level, heading right down the runway centerline at what was to me an incredible speed. It was the senior Fornoff, and when he reached the approach end, the bird racked up onto a wingtip at 60 degrees of bank, cutting around in a circle as fast as you could slice a wheel of cheese. Before you could say BOB’S YOUR UNCLE, the Bearcat was on final and I was called back into the pattern.
I was greatly excited by what I had just witnessed. This was the first ‘overhead traffic pattern pitch out’, I’d ever seen – I didn’t even know what to call it. I was sure the tower was going to climb all over the pilot for shining his ass in traffic. It took me quite a few minutes of puzzlement before I concluded that somehow this nimble display of maneuverability must be allowed, and was in some way tied to planes possessing more power and speed than my 90mph Luscombe.
I relate all this just to say that the excitement of watching airplanes as related in this short vignette, is something I understand and remember.
Give thanks that all who read this likely have had a life somehow tied to aviation, and give thanks that we have made our livings around airplanes instead of following the behind-ends of two mules, down one row and up the next.
The pilot arrived by cab, paid the driver, and then stepped into the pilot’s lounge. He was an older man; his wavy hair was gray and tossed. It looked like it might have been combed, say, around the turn of the century. His flight jacket was checked, creased and worn – it smelled old and genuine. Old Glory was prominently sewn to its shoulders. He projected a quiet air of proficiency and pride devoid of arrogance. He filed a quick flight plan to Montreal (Expo-67, Air Show) then walked across the tarmac.
At about 500 mph and 150 yards from where we stood, she passed with the old American pilot ‘Saluting’. Imagine. A salute! I felt like laughing, I felt like crying, she glistened, she screamed, the building shook, my heart pounded.
Then the old pilot pulled her up and rolled, and rolled, and rolled out of sight into the broken clouds and indelibly into my memory. I’ve never wanted to be an American more than on that day. It was a time when many nations in the world looked to America as their big brother, a steady and even-handed beacon of security who navigated difficult political water with grace and style; not unlike the pilot who’d just flown into my memory. He was proud not arrogant, humble not a braggart, old and honest, projecting an aura of America at its best. ‘That’ America Will return one day, I know it will. Until that time, I’ll just send off this story; call it a reciprocal salute, to the old American pilot who wove a memory for a young Canadian, one that’s lasted a lifetime.
Below is an article written by Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated..
He details his experiences when given the opportunity to fly in a
F-14 Tomcat.. If you aren’t laughing out loud by the time you get
to ‘Milk Duds’ , your sense of humor is seriously broken.
This message is for America ‘s most famous athletes:
Someday you may be invited to fly in the back-seat of one of your country’s
most powerful fighter jets. Many of you already have. John Elway,
John Stockton, Tiger Woods to name a few. If you get this opportunity,
let me urge you, with the greatest sincerity…. Move to Guam .
Change your name. Fake your own death!
Whatever you do.
Do Not Go!!!
The U.S. Navy invited me to try it. I was thrilled. I was pumped….
I was toast! I should’ve known when they told me my pilot would
be Chip (Biff) King of Fighter Squadron 213 at Naval Air Station
Oceana in Virginia Beach ..
Whatever you’re thinking a Top Gun named Chip (Biff) King looks
like, triple it. He’s about six-foot, tan, ice-blue eyes, wavy surfer hair,
finger-crippling handshake — the kind of man who wrestles
dyspeptic alligators in his leisure time. If you see this man, run the
other way. Fast.
Biff King was born to fly. His father, Jack King, was for years the
voice of NASA missions. (‘T-minus 15 seconds and counting’. Remember?)
Chip would charge neighborhood kids a quarter each to hear his dad.
Jack would wake up from naps surrounded by nine-year-olds waiting
for him to say, ‘We have liftoff’.
Biff was to fly me in an F- 14D Tomcat, a ridiculously powerful $60 million
weapon with nearly as much thrust as weight, not unlike Colin Montgomerie.
I was worried about getting airsick, so the night before the flight I asked
Biff if there was something I should eat the next morning.
‘Bananas’, he said.
‘For the potassium?’ I asked.
‘No,’ Biff said, “because they taste about the same coming up
as they do going down”.
The next morning, out on the tarmac, I had on my flight suit with my name
sewn over the left breast. (No call sign — like Crash or Sticky or Leadfoot.
But, still, very cool.) I carried my helmet in the crook of my arm, as Biff had
instructed. If ever in my life I had a chance to nail Nicole Kidman, this was it.
A fighter pilot named Psycho gave me a safety briefing and then fastened
me into my ejection seat, which, when employed, would ‘egress’ me out
of the plane at such a velocity that I would be immediately knocked
Just as I was thinking about aborting the flight, the canopy closed over me,
and Biff gave the ground crew a thumbs-up. In minutes we were firing nose
up at 600 mph. We leveled out and then canopy-rolled…. over another F-14.
Those 20 minutes were the rush of my life. Unfortunately, the ride lasted 80.
It was like being on the roller coaster at Six Flags Over Hell. Only without rails.
We did barrel rolls, snap rolls, loops, yanks and banks. We dived, rose and
dived again, sometimes with a vertical velocity of 10,000 feet per minute.
We chased another F-14,…… and it chased us.
We broke the speed of sound. Sea was sky and sky was sea. Flying at
200 feet, we did 90-degree turns at 550 mph, creating a G force of 6.5,
which is to say I felt as if 6.5 times my body weight was smashing
against me, thereby approximating life as Mrs. Colin Montgomerie.
And I egressed the bananas.
And I egressed the pizza from the night before.
And the lunch before that.
I egressed a box of Milk Duds from the sixth grade.
I made Linda Blair look polite. Because of the G’s, I was egressing
stuff that I never thought would be egressed..
I went through not one airsick bag, but two.
Biff said I passed out….. Twice. I was coated in sweat. At one point,
as we were coming in upside down in a banked curve on a mock
bombing target and the G’s were flattening me like a tortilla and I
was in and out of consciousness, I realized I was the first person
in history to throw down.
I used to know ‘cool’. Cool was Elway throwing a touchdown pass,
or Norman making a five-iron bite.. But now I really know ‘cool’.
Cool is guys like Biff, men with cast-iron stomachs and freon nerves.
I wouldn’t go up there again for Derek Jeter’s black book, but I’m
glad Biff does every day, and for less $$ a year than a rookie reliever
makes in a home stand.
A week later, when the spins finally stopped, Biff called. He said
he and the fighters had the perfect call sign for me. Said he’d
send it on a patch for my flight suit.
What is it? I asked.
World War II Aviation Art with descriptions: PP files sometimes need different approach to open. Firefox or? Copy/Paste?
Images may be lost, but facts are verified by credits:
Below is an excellent summary of the effort required in WWII. It focuses on the American side of things, but the British, Germans and Japanese expended comparable energy and experienced similar costs. Just one example for the Luftwaffe; about 1/3 of the Bf109s built were lost in non-combat crashes. After Midway, the Japanese experience level declined markedly, with the loss of so many higher-time naval pilots. This piece is worth saving in hard copy.
I didn’t put it together. Someone else did lots of hard work.