FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 26 through 28, 2017

Spring Baseball is here!

My faith in mankind is once again renewed!  Spring baseball has started.  “You can observe a lot by watching.” And, “You can see a lot just by observing.”  Of course those are both quotes from Yogi Berra.  Anyway, catch a game over the next couple days before many of the players depart for the World Baseball Classic (WBC).  The WBC is an international baseball tournament sanctioned from 2006 to 2013 by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and after 2013 by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC). It was proposed to the IBAF by Major League Baseball (MLB), the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), and other professional baseball leagues and their players associations around the world. It is the main baseball tournament sanctioned by the WBSC, which grants to the winner the title of “World Champion”.  After a 3-year gap between the first two installments of the tournament, plans were made for the World Baseball Classic to be repeated every four years following the 2009 event. The third installment of the Classic was held in 2013, and the next is scheduled to commence in the next few days in South Korea.

 

Bye, Bye, Bilden

I find it interesting that Philip Bilden, President Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of the Navy has withdrawn his name from consideration.  “After an extensive review process,” Bilden said, “I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests.”  He’s a Hong Kong-based venture capitalist with Harbour Vest Partners and very rich money dude.  His only military experience is 10 years as an Army Reservist.  He attended the US Army Intelligence Center and School at Fort Huachuca, AZ.  He never deployed and his time on active duty is … unclear.  During, his time in the Reserves, he attended Harvard Business School however. No word on whether he used Veterans benefits to pay for his education.  Thanks for playing, Mr. Bilden!  We wouldn’t want your personal investment interests to become secondary to any possible service to your nation.

 

China To Spy On Camp Lemonnier

And yet another place to keep an eye on these days is Djibouti.  China is constructing its first overseas military base there — just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, one of the Pentagon’s largest and most important foreign installations.  Camp Lemonnier is a United States Naval Expeditionary Base, situated at Djibouti‘s Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport and home to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) of the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM).  It is the only permanent US military base in Africa.  The camp is operated by U.S. Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia; CJTF-HOA is the most notable tenant command located at the facility as of 2008. It was established as the primary base in the region for the support of Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA). After negotiations between March and May 2001, the Djiboutian government allowed for the base’s use by the U.S., providing for demininghumanitarian, and counter-terrorism efforts, and it now serves as the location from which U.S. and Coalition forces are operating in the Horn of Africa. The access agreement made by officials from the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti with the Djiboutian government allows for use of the camp, as well as a nearby airport and port facilities.   The base is a deployed station for around 4000 personnel.  Some are involved in highly secretive missions, including targeted drone killings in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, and the raid last month in Yemen that left a member of the Navy SEALs dead. The base, which is run by the Navy and abuts Djibouti’s international airport, is the only permanent American military installation in Africa.  With increasing tensions over China’s island-building efforts in the South China Sea, American strategists and readers of FOD worry that a naval port so close to Camp Lemonnier could provide a front-row seat to the staging ground for American counterterror operations in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.

 

AN-22 First Flight

27 February 1965: The first flight of the Antonov Design Bureau AN-22 Antheus took place at Sviatoshyn Airfield, Kiev, Ukraine.  It is a heavy military transport aircraft designed by the Antonov Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. Powered by four turboprop engines each driving a pair of contra-rotating propellers, the design was the first Soviet wide-body aircraft and remains the world’s largest turboprop-powered aircraft to date. The An-22 first appeared publicly outside the Soviet Union at the 1965 Paris Air Show. Since then, the model has seen extensive use in major military and humanitarian airlifts for the Soviet Union. The An-22 was the world’s largest airplane at the time, and it remains the world’s largest turboprop airplane.

 

Two New National Parks Established

On this day in history, two national parks were established in the United States10 years apart–the Grand Canyon in 1919 and the Grand Teton National Park in 1929.  Located in northwestern Arizona, the Grand Canyon National Park is the product of millions of years of excavation by the mighty Colorado River. The chasm is exceptionally deep, dropping more than a mile into the earth, and is 15 miles across at its widest point.  The canyon is home to more than 1,500 plant species and over 500 animal species, many of them endangered or unique to the area, and it’s steep, multi-colored walls tell the story of 2 billion years of Earth’s history.  In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the site and said: “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled through-out the wide world… Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”  I completed a raft trip through the Grand Canyon a few years ago.  I recommend it highly.  The Grand Teton National Park includes the major peaks of the 40-mile-long (64 km) Teton Range as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole. It is only 10 miles (16 km) south of Yellowstone National Park, to which it is connected by the National Park Service-managed John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Along with surrounding National Forests, these three protected areas constitute the almost 18,000,000-acre (7,300,000 ha) Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the largest intact mid-latitude temperate ecosystems in the world.  The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) passed well north of the Grand Teton region. During their return trip from the Pacific Ocean, expedition member John Colter was given an early discharge so he could join two fur trappers who were heading west in search of beaver pelts. Colter was later hired by Manuel Lisa to lead fur trappers and to explore the region around the Yellowstone River. During the winter of 1807/08 Colter passed through Jackson Hole and was the first Caucasian to see the Teton Range.  John Colter is widely considered the first mountain man and, like those that came to the Jackson Hole region over the next 30 years, he was there primarily for the profitable fur trapping; the region was rich with the highly sought after pelts of beaver and other fur bearing animals. Between 1810 and 1812, the Astorians traveled through Jackson Hole and crossed Teton Pass as they headed east in 1812.   After 1810, American and British fur trading companies were in competition for control of the North American fur trade, and American sovereignty over the region was not secured until the signing of the Oregon Treaty in 1846. One party employed by the British North West Company and led by explorer Donald Mackenzie entered Jackson Hole from the west in 1818 or 1819. The Tetons, as well as the valley west of the Teton Range known today as Pierre’s Hole, may have been named by French speaking Iroquois or French Canadian trappers that were part of Mackenzie’s party.  Earlier parties had referred to the most prominent peaks of the Teton Range as the Pilot Knobs. The French trappers’ les trois tétons (the three breasts) was later shortened to the Tetons.  Leave it to the French to notice that.  The Colter Stone pictured here has a story as well. Sometime between 1931 and 1933, an Idaho farmer named William Beard and his son discovered a rock carved into the shape of a man’s head while clearing a field in Tetonia, Idaho, which is immediately west of the Teton Range. The rhyolite lava rock is 13 inches (330 mm) long, 8 inches (200 mm) wide and 4 inches (100 mm) thick and has the words “John Colter” carved on the right side of the face and the number “1808” on the left side and has been dubbed the “Colter Stone.”  Its authenticity has not been verified.

 

It’s Mardi Gras Time!

And this year, February 28th  is Mardi Gras.  There are many events and celebrations around the world associated with the beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminating on the day before Ash WednesdayMardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.  In the US, the biggest and most famous in the one in New OrleansLouisiana, where they consider Mardi Gras to stretch the entire period from Twelfth Night (the last night of Christmas which begins Epiphany) to Ash Wednesday.

 

Meet Hannah Reitsch

Hannah Reitsch, was Germany’s most famous female aviator and test pilot during WW II.  She was the only woman awarded the Iron Cross First Class and the Luftwaffe Pilot/Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds during World War II. She set more than 40 altitude and endurance women’s records in gliding before and after World War II. In the 1960s she founded a gliding school in Ghana, where she worked for Kwame Nkrumah.  On 28 February 1944 she presented the idea of Operation Suicide to Hitler at Berchtesgaden, which “would require men who were ready to sacrifice themselves in the conviction that only by this means could their country be saved.” Hitler “did not consider the war situation sufficiently serious to warrant them…and…this was not the right psychological moment.” He gave his approval; the project was assigned to Gen. Günther Korten.   There were about seventy volunteers who enrolled in the Suicide Group as pilots for the human glider-bomb.  I note she wasn’t one who added her name to the list.  Reitsch was interviewed and photographed several times in the 1970s, towards the end of her life, by Jewish-American photo-journalist Ron Laytner. In her closing remarks she is quoted as saying: “And what have we now in Germany? A land of bankers and car-makers. Even our great army has gone soft. Soldiers wear beards and question orders. I am not ashamed to say I believed in National Socialism. I still wear the Iron Cross with diamonds Hitler gave me. But today in all Germany you can’t find a single person who voted Adolf Hitler into power … Many Germans feel guilty about the war. But they don’t explain the real guilt we share – that we lost.”

 

$1.2B Payday for Getty Museum

And on February 28, 1982, the J. Paul Getty Museum became the most richly endowed museum on earth when it received a $1.2 billion.  The bequest followed years of legal wrangling over his fortune by his children, ex-wives and of course lawyers who kept his will in probate for the six years following his death.  During that period of time the original $700 million bequest nearly doubled.  The Getty Center, in Los AngelesCalifornia, is a campus of the Getty Museum and other programs of the Getty Trust. The $1.3 billion Center opened to the public on December 16, 1997 and is well known for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles.  Located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, the Center is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum and draws 1.3 million visitors annually. (The other location is the Getty Villa in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los AngelesCalifornia.) The Center branch of the Museum features pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American, Asian, and European photographs.  In addition, the Museum’s collection at the Center includes outdoor sculpture displayed on terraces and in gardens and the large Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin. Among the artworks on display is the Vincent Van Gogh painting Irises.  Designed by architect Richard Meier, the campus also houses the Getty Research Institute (GRI), the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and the J. Paul Getty Trust. The Center’s design included special provisions to address concerns regarding earthquakes and fires.  Both facilities are well worth your time to visit.

 

Why it’s … an …  A-11.  Ya, That’s what it is…

And since this year is not a leap year, we might remember that on 29 February 1964,  President Lyndon B. Johnson  publicly revealed the existence of the Top Secret Lockheed   YF-12 prototype interceptor, a Mach 3+ interceptor designed and built by Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson’s “Skunk Works.” President Johnson referred to the interceptor as the “A-11.”  The reason for President Johnson’s announcement of the existence of the YF-12A prototypes was to conceal the existence of the Central Intelligence Agency’s fleet of Lockheed A-12 Oxcart reconnaissance aircraft based at Groom Lake, Nevada. Any sightings of CIA/Air Force A-12s based at Area 51 in Nevada could be attributed to the well-publicized Air Force YF-12As based at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  The YF-12 was a twin-seat version of the secret single-seat Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft, which led to the U.S. Air Force’s Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird twin-seat reconnaissance variant. The YF-12 set and held speed and altitude world records of over 2,000 mph (3,200 km/h) and over 80,000 ft (later surpassed by the SR-71), and is the world’s largest manned interceptor to date.  On your next visit to the National Museum of the USAF, you can view one.

 

 

 

Beech Baron First Flight

And on February 29, 1960, Beech Aircraft Corporation test pilot S.Little made the first flight of the Beechcraft 95-55 Baron, serial number TC-1.  One of the most popular light twin airplanes, the original production variant was flown by a single pilot and could carry 3 to 4 passengers. This was the time of a great many developments in light civil aircraft.  The direct predecessor of the Baron was the Beechcraft 95 Travel Air, which incorporated the fuselage of the Bonanza and the tail control surfaces of the T-34 Mentor military trainer. To create the new airplane, the Travel Air’s tail was replaced with that of the Beechcraft Debonair, the engine nacelles were streamlined, six-cylinder engines were added, and the aircraft’s name was changed. In 1960, the Piper Aztec was introduced, utilizing two, 250 hp Lycoming O-540 engines; Cessna too had improved their 310 with two Continental IO-470 D, producing 260 hp.  Meanwhile, Beechcraft’s Bonanza had been improved with a Continental IO-470-N, but the answer to competition was to make a true Twin Bonanza. The first model, the 55, was powered by two, six-cylinder IO-470-L engines, producing 260 hp at 2,625rpm; it was introduced in 1961. It included the fully swept vertical stabilizer of the Debonair, while still retaining the four to four+five place seating of the Travel Air.  The T-42A Cochise is a military version of the Baron 95-B55 for use by the United States Army as an instrument training aircraft. The Army Aviation School took delivery of 65 aircraft.