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Wednesday
Oct032012

Contrails - October 2012

Bucket Lists and Bob Hoover

By Steve Weaver

Steve Weaver shakes hands with his hero, Bob Hoover, at the 2012 Reno Air Races. (Denny Duffy)It seems to me as I get older I find myself spending more and more time thinking about the things that I’ve wanted to do all my life and haven’t gotten around to doing yet.  My ‘Bucket List,’ to use the popular vernacular, has been on my mind for the past several years, and I’ve been thinking that I’d better get busy on some accomplishments if I want to get them done.

I’m reminded of the seventy-something retired airline captain who bought a Baron from me years ago. “I’ve always wanted a Baron,” he said, “and one morning I woke up and thought, If not now, when?” Really a good question, I thought at the time, and it’s an even better question for me now. I recently thought of that when I bought a Harley Springer that looks very much like the one I had at 18.

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Friday
Sep072012

World Remembers Neil Armstrong: One Small Step… For All Mankind

Portrait of Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing mission in his space suit, with his helmet on the table in front of him. Behind him is a large photograph of the lunar surface. (NASA)Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, died on Saturday, Aug. 25, following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. He was 82.

Armstrong’s words “That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” spoken on July 20, 1969, as he became the first person ever to step onto another planetary body, instantly became a part of history.

Those few words from the Sea of Tranquillity were the climactic fulfillment of the efforts and hopes of millions of people and the expenditure of billions of dollars. A plaque on one of the lander’s legs that concluded “We came in peace for all mankind,” further emphasized that Armstrong and fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were there as representatives of all humans.

In a 2001 oral history interview, Armstrong credited those behind the scenes for the mission’s success: “when you have hundreds of thousands of people all doing their job a little better than they have to, you get an improvement in performance. And that’s the only reason we could have pulled this whole thing off.”

Armstrong is survived by his wife, two sons, a stepson, a stepdaughter, 10 grandchildren, and a brother and sister.

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Friday
Sep072012

Editorial: A Fly-By for Neil

By Ed Downs

Regular readers of In Flight USA may have picked up on the fact that editorial opinions and the fun of connecting flying with space sciences come from the unsettled mind of a single person, this writer. It was planned to follow our standard two-topic format in September. But history intervened to change those plans. A remarkable person, test pilot and astronaut passed away, and those who remember when this country was proud of its scientific accomplishments took a moment to reflect. Neil Armstrong is gone. The passing of this great American connects opinion, feelings, flying and science together in a way that warrants that only one story should be written this time. Please know that the staff of In Flight USA, plus every aviator and astronomer I know extends their most heart felt sympathies and condolences to Neil’s family and friends, for their loss is unspeakable. Indeed, God speed, Neil.

This writer was in his hotel room after a long day of teaching a Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic, tired and sore from standing for more than 10 hours. But the evening was not over. Research was needed to confirm some facts and numbers before continuing with this month Skies to Stars column. With a cross country planned to the Moon, it was time to fire up the computer, unfurl a detailed Moon map, and consider how I would locate my destination, the Apollo 11 landing site. The quest for data clarification started with a search engine entry regarding Apollo 11 technical information, but I was stopped cold in my tracks. Almost every search link connected to some comment about the passing of Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11 and the first man to set foot on the moon. This was the first I had heard of this news. I fired up the TV and confirmed that a person I had never met, but considered a friend and mentor, was gone. An era was at an end, like so many “eras” of scientific adventure and courage that have come to an end in recent times.

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Friday
Sep072012

Contrails

Living Without Wheels

By Steve Weaver

Instructor Russ Weaver (no relation, Billie Sue Nester, student, Steve Weaver and friend David Austin. (Courtesy of Steve Weaver)Stopped at a traffic light this week, I noticed the car in front of me sported a license plate holder that proclaimed that the owner’s other car was an airplane. I thought back to a time when I could have used a license holder that said “My other airplane is an airplane,” but then I wouldn’t have had a car to attach it to.

There have probably been other aviation zealots, who have owned two airplanes without owning a car, but I’ve never met another one and it was a strange set of circumstances that caused me to be in such a position.

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Friday
Sep072012

Air Racing: Competition Continues to Improve Design

By Alan Smith

The Lancair “Legacy” races at Reno in the Sport Class. (Jan Peters)Any kind of motorsport provides a form of on-site engineering test and function improvement, and air racing has definitely contributed to the development of high performance aircraft. During the so-called Golden Age of air racing that went on for ten years prior to the second World War, wing flaps, retractable landing gear, engine superchargers and variable pitch propellers all came from determination to win the Thompson and Greve trophies. Even the high performance monoplane came out of that period in a racer named the Mystery Ship that won the first Thompson trophy race in 1929. Designed and built at the Travel Air company in the American Midwest, it defeated some of the best military aircraft the armed forces of the United States could come up with.

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