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Wednesday
Oct312012

The Thrill of Flying with the Blue Angels

By Russ Albertson

Ernie, the C-130 Herclues used by the Blue Angels. (Russ Albertson)The U.S. Navy Blue Angels have thrilled hundreds of millions of spectators at airshows across the country since 1946.  The team demonstrates seemingly effortless precision in all their maneuvers as they fly the beautiful Boeing F/A-18 Hornets just inches apart.  The team was established just after WWII as the U.S. Navy saw its budget diminishing.  The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester Nimitz, directed his staff to find a way to promote Naval Aviation and keep the public aware of the need for a strong military.  The Navy Flight Exhibition Team was born in 1946. Lieutenant Commander Roy “Butch” Voris, a Navy Ace in WWII, was selected as the first flight leader and the team acquired the name “Blue Angels” when one of the first pilots on the team saw a reference to the Blue Angel Nightclub in a magazine.   

The team, led by Lt.Cdr. Voris, chose the best pilots he could find to fly the Grumman F-6F five-piston engine Navy carrier fighter. The F-6Fs were painted dark blue with gold trim, which was changed to dark blue and yellow as the team transitioned to the F-8F Bearcat in August, 1946.  The team started with four aircraft flying the signature “Diamond” formation and later added two “Solo” aircraft.  The team  has flown 10 different aircraft and received their first jet, the Grumman F-9F Panther, in 1949, and today the team flies the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet.  The Hornets are at the end of their carrier arrestment service life.  The Hornets are modified by the team with an inverted fuel pump to ensure uninterrupted fuel flow for extended up-side down flying.  Other modifications include the removal of the nose cannon, the addition of a fluid smoke system, stop watch, and an adjustable tension spring to the control stick, …and of course that beautiful Blue and Gold paint scheme!

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Wednesday
Oct312012

Editorial: Leadership

By Ed Downs

November, 2012, is a good time to think about leadership.  By the time most readers have viewed these opinions, we will have had a national election with the potential for many changes.  Re-election of our present leadership will probably include changes to the Cabinet, new congressional members and a mandate from voters to “get things going again.”  A new guy in the “Top Job” will mean sweeping changes coupled with expectations of “keep your promises.”  No matter what the outcome, most Americans will agree that we need a vastly revised version of “leadership” inside the Beltway.

Just moments before this writer sat down to key in some thoughts about leadership, the aviation community saw a sudden and unexpected change take place, also associated with leadership.  Our industry’s many alphabet groups, such as AOPA, EAA, NBAA, GAMA and LAMA (plus many more) are the voice of pilots and manufacturers in this country’s complex legislative world.  Some, Like AOPA, represent that vast and varied part of flying known as “General Aviation.”  The folks at NBAA specialize in business aviation, while GAMA and LAMA support aviation manufacturers. 

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Wednesday
Oct312012

Contrails: Escape From Plenty

By Steve Weaver

Autumn in West Virginia. (Steve Weaver)Autumn has worked its way down the slopes of the Appalachians and colored the leaves in the foothills of West Virginia, the place where I was born and where I now spend the six warm months each year. Looking down the bank outside my window into the slow drifting waters of the Buckhannon River I can see flotillas of gaily colored leaves making their way downstream to the place they will come to rest and slowly turn to soil.

It’s said that autumn is a time to reflect and I think that must be so, because I find I do most of my deep (deep being a relative word here) thinking about life in general, and my life in particular, during this time of year.

A few days ago in such a state, I started pondering how the business of selling airplanes has changed in the last dozen years or so and about how completely my life has changed during the same period.

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Wednesday
Oct312012

Mister Mulligan: Golden Age Race Winner with a Fine Irish Name

By Alan Smith

Benny Howard’s Mister Mulligan, 1935 winner of both Bendix and Thompson trophies. (San Diego Air & Space Museum)As air racing’s Golden Age of the 1930s went on, the design of new racers continued to lead advancement in both military and civil aviation. In 1935, Benny Howard’s high wing monoplane Mister Mulligan was a classic example of this. With Gordon Israel as co-pilot, Howard won the cross country Bendix from the west coast to Cleveland and then with Harold Neumann as pilot, Mulligan went on to win the Thompson Trophy. The Bendix trophy was won partly because Howard and Israel used on-board oxygen for the first time and stayed above the weather. The oxygen system was another racing innovation passed on to other designers in the military and civil aviation world.

1935 was really Benny Howard’s year of triumph. Not only did Mulligan win both the Bendix and the Thompson, but Neumann also won the Greve Trophy in Howard’s little Mike racer.

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Tuesday
Oct162012

Editorial: “I’m Listening”

By Ed Downs

So there I was, listening to learned PhD’s talk about the psychology of flight in a room full of aviation training experts who were all attending an FAA program entitled, “21st Century Airman Certification.” Surrounded, as we were, by the vast facilities of the FAA Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center (a small city of buildings located next to Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport), this writer should have been deeply involved in the discussion at hand.  But all of this psycho-talk had my mind wandering to the TV sitcom, Frasier, that ran from 1993 to 2004, based upon the life and times of a very funny psychologist and an array of equally funny supporting characters. The Kelsey Grammer character of Frasier Crane hosted a “phone in” radio program that was always answered with the line, “I’m listening.” To be sure, the large staff of FAA personnel from the FAA AFS 600 Regulatory Support Division was “listening.”

But, let’s start at the beginning.  Early in September, the FAA Safety Team sent out an e-mail invitation to aviation professionals that announced an “AFS 600 Open House” being held at the Monroney Center by folks at the Airman Certification: Standards, Training & Testing Division of the FAA.  This is the division within the FAA that deals with pilot flight standards, Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) management, the Practical Test Standards (PTS) and the Knowledge Test, typically called the “written exam.”  In other words, anyone obtaining a pilot certificate of any kind goes through this organization.  

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