FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 1st through 7th 2018

Saying of the Day

I thought growing old would take longer

Friends of FOD

Running a bit late with this edition.  Actually I tried to publish last night, but the internet connection in my hotel was too slow to make it work, so I went to bed. Working on the ’31 Chevy is …. It’s almost like a job, but costs me instead of pays me.


How China Could Takeover Taiwan Without A Shot Fired

I’ve mentioned here in FOD how freedom of the seas and in particular the South China Sea is important not only to the Asian nations in the region, but for all nations who depend upon the free exchange of goods and services through those contested waters.  China’s ability to restrict trade to selective nations of their choice is a weapon as old as the sea.  Taiwan has long been a thorn in the side of China since the communist government has been in place.  And while Taiwan has military ties with Japan and the US there are likely limits established as to what we might do if China were to act militarily.  A few days ago Asian Times reported rumors have swirled on both sides of the Taiwan Strait since the beginning of last year that Chinese President Xi Jinping was mulling taking back the wayward, self-ruling island of Taiwan in one fell swoop amid growing militancy among the Chinese masses.  Some have gone so far as to suggest that by the early 2020s the two sides would be in a state of belligerence as Xi, unlike his predecessors, has no scruples against waging a full-blown war to recapture what Beijing considers a renegade province.  They say that the year 2022, the end of Xi’s second tenure as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, would be the deadline for him to exert his unrestrained powers to redeem the glory of the Middle Kingdom, after Xi has made “China dream” and “great revitalization” the tag lines of his rule.  “Xi’s grand visions will become empty platitudes if he fails to take back Taiwan before his second term ends, and in that case his ‘China dream’ will become a pipe dream, and he is fully aware of that,” said one analyst.  No one will doubt that China’s Central Military Commission and the People’s Liberation Army have in place a host of all-encompassing combat plans of tactics and deployment to suit all war scenarios, as well as stratagems to deter or fend off intervention by the US or Japan.  The Chinese military must have been updating these plans from time to time to reflect changes in geopolitics and Taiwan’s own defenses, for Xi to choose from should he feel that the time is ripe for a once-and-for-all, momentous action to tame and reclaim the island.  Meanwhile, Beijing has also been on a spree of building or inaugurating aircraft carriers, missiles, corvettes, destroyers, amphibious battleships and stealth fighters, fueling further speculation over whether Taiwan stands a chance when Xi, armed with the will of the rank and file, is girding for a new Chinese civil war.  While many observers believe Xi is readying the military and the nation for a showdown, a bid that will decide how he will go down in history, veteran military commentator Andrei Chang noted in the Kanwa Defense Review that the PLA’s big guns and ships may be for show to make Washington and Tokyo think twice before stepping in, and a trigger doesn’t have to be pulled now that Xi has a slew of non-military options at his disposal.  The Hong Kong-based current-affairs monthly SuperMedia also reported that among the many diplomatic and economic means to subjugate the island is issuing Taiwan Special Administrative Region passports and granting hukou (Chinese household registration) and permanent residency to the 2 million Taiwanese already residing in mainland China.  Previous reports also suggest that the PLA’s first overseas base, which sits right on the Horn of Africa in Djibouti (and discussed here in FOD previously), is aimed at Taiwan, since the resource-scarce island relies substantially on the narrow waterway linking the Suez Canal and the Arabian Sea for oil imports from the Middle East as well as trade with Europe. From the Djibouti base PLA troops could intercept tankers ferrying oil to Taiwan and seal off the island’s trade artery in no time.  Beijing’s frenzied investment and acquisitions targeting stakes in mines, oilfields and energy firms in the Belt and Road countries could also jeopardize Taiwan’s economic security should Beijing decree an embargo of crude oil and other natural resources, according to Chang.  Something they have been unwilling to do when it comes to dealing with North Korea.  The raft of economic, trade, financial and logistical measures short of a shooting war to contain Taiwan won’t provide an opening for Washington to weight in, yet given time, they could work to coerce Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen into coming to terms with Xi and accepting whatever he has in store for a treaty to create a future Taiwan Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.


China In Latin America and the Monroe Doctrine

And speaking of China and their ever expanding influence, I found this a recent edition of Foreign PolicyUnited States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may have stumbled out of the gate as he kicked off a trip to Latin America by praising a controversial 200-year-old foreign-policy doctrine, warning of “imperial” Chinese trade ambitions, and touting the United States as the region’s preferred trade partner.  During a question-and-answer session after a speech in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, Tillerson praised the 1823 Monroe Doctrine as “clearly … a success.” The doctrine, and subsequent corollary to the doctrine issued in 1904 by President Theodore Roosevelt, asserted U.S. authority in the Western Hemisphere over meddling European powers, and is still seen by many in the region as a form of U.S. imperialism.  “I think it’s as relevant today as it was the day it was written,” Tillerson said of the doctrine.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a joint press conference with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray (out of frame) at the Foreign Ministry building in Mexico City on February 23, 2017.
Mexico vowed not to let the United States impose migration reforms on it as its leaders prepared Thursday to host US officials Tillerson and Homeland Security chief John Kelly who are cracking down on illegal immigrants. / AFP / Ronaldo SCHEMIDT (Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

The secretary’s remarks were a direct repudiation of the Barack Obama administration’s new-style approach to the region. In 2013, Tillerson’s predecessor John Kerry declared “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.”  Tillerson’s remarks could ruffle the feathers of his hosts on an already fraught trip. Since President Donald Trump has taken office, U.S. standing in Latin America has plummeted, and Tillerson’s trip, which will cover cooperation on migration, trade, and energy, may have been meant to smooth things over.  But experts say it will be an uphill battle. “Thus far, all of Trump’s policy attention to Latin America has been highly negative,” said Cynthia Arnson of the Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank.  During Tillerson’s speech in Austin, which fell on his one-year anniversary of becoming secretary of state, Tillerson also painted China as a foil to the United States. “Today China is getting a foothold in Latin America. It is using economic statecraft to pull the region into its orbit. The question is: At what price?” he said.  Tillerson took particular aim at China’s economic approach to Latin America, which focused on gaining access to commodities from countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and Peru, but which has left little lasting benefit for those countries.  “Latin America does not need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people,” said the top diplomat charged with implementing the Trump administration’s “America first” approach to the world. “China’s state-led model of development is reminiscent of the past,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be this hemisphere’s future.”  Tillerson’s trip comes as he fends off criticism back in Washington, and the State Department reels from the resignation of its top U.S. career diplomat, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, who played a crucial role in talks on Venezuela. Shannon’s resignation followed the departure last fall of William Brownfield, another longtime Latin America expert and point man on anti-narcotics efforts in the region.  Tillerson vowed Washington would remain the region’s “steadiest, strongest, and most enduring partner.”


Why Swearing Is F**ing Good For You

I found this in Military Times.  Humans aren’t the only primates who can curse, but we’re really good at it, as anyone in the military might know.  And, it turns out, it’s good for us.  Cursing can promote teamwork and trust, and even make us more tolerant to pain, according Emma Byrne, author of the new book “Swearing is Good for You.” An interview with Byrne is available on National GeographicHow can cursing can build teamwork and increase pain tolerance?  “Using swear words appropriate for that person shows how well you know them; and how well you understand their mental model,” Byrne told National Geographic. She also notes that at research shows that people who are swearing can withstand much more pain than people who are otherwise quiet.  More important, other primates can curse? Yep, chimpanzees taught sign language develop signed swear words that they use not only in their daily lives, but they also teach the signed words to younger chimps.  So, swearing not only builds teamwork and tolerance for pain, it’s arguably in our f**cking nature.



Punxsutawney Phil Saw His Shadow – Six More Weeks of Winter

Thousands of people, bundled up in 11-degree temperatures in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, witnessed Punxsutawney Phil’s annual prediction on how long the North American winter will last on Ground Hog Day, February 02. The first Groundhog Day, in 1887featuring a rodent meteorologist, is celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, it gets scared and runs back into its burrow, predicting six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring.  Groundhogs, also called woodchucks and whose scientific name is Marmota monax, typically weigh 12 to 15 pounds and live six to eight years. They eat vegetables and fruits, whistle when they’re frightened or looking for a mate (they’re sometimes called whistle pigs) and can climb trees and swim.  They go into hibernation in the late fall; during this time, their body temperatures drop significantly, their heartbeats slow from 80 to five beats per minute and they can lose 30 percent of their body fat. In February, male groundhogs emerge from their burrows to look for a mate (not to predict the weather) before going underground again. They come out of hibernation for good in March.  Ground Hog Day is celebrated in other locales as well.  Staten Island Chuck is the official weather-forecasting woodchuck for New York City.   Chuck famously bit former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the ceremony in 2009.  Likely because when you’re out and about looking for the love of your life or even the  love of the moment, you don’t want to be assaulted by the mayor of New York.  Dunkirk Dave (a stage name for numerous groundhogs that have filled the role since 1960) is the local groundhog for Western New York, handled by Bob Will, a typewriter repairman who runs a rescue shelter for groundhogs. Now I’ve got to ask myself what kind of living can you be making these days as a typewriter repairman and as an operator of a shelter for feisty rodents, generally considered a pest by farmers and golf course grounds keepers like Bill Murray.  The 1993 movie Groundhog Day helped boost recognition of the custom, and the celebration has spread even further afield. In 2009, Quebec began to mark the day (Canadian FrenchJour de la Marmotte) with its own groundhog.  In Washington, DC, the Dupont Circle Groundhog Day event features Potomac Phil, another taxidermic specimen. In addition to the spring prediction, if Potomac Phil sees its shadow, it portents six more months of political gridlock.  Only six more months – why stop there?


Space Shuttle Columbia Remembered

On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members. The disaster was the second fatal accident in the Space Shuttle program after Space Shuttle Challenger, which broke apart and killed the seven-member crew 73 seconds after liftoff in 1986.  The crew consisted of: From left to right are mission specialist CAPT David Brown USN, Commander COL Rick Husband USAF, mission specialist CAPT Laurel Clark USN, mission specialist Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist LTCOL Michael Anderson USAF, pilot CDR William McCool USN, and Israeli payload specialist COL Ilan Ramon IAF. During the launch of STS-107Columbia’s 28th mission, a piece of foam insulation from the left hand bipod ramp broke off from the Space Shuttle external tank and struck the left wing of the orbiter. (see photo below) A few previous shuttle launches had seen damage ranging from minor to major from foam shedding, but some engineers suspected that the damage to Columbia was more serious. NASA managers limited the investigation, reasoning that the crew could not have fixed the problem if it had been confirmed.  When Columbia re-entered the atmosphere of Earth, the damage allowed hot atmospheric gases to penetrate and destroy the internal wing structure, which caused the spacecraft to become unstable and break apart.  After the disaster, Space Shuttle flight operations were suspended for more than two years, as they had been after the Challenger disaster. Construction of the International Space Station (ISS) was put on hold; the station relied entirely on the Russian Roscosmos State Corporation for resupply for 29 months until Shuttle flights resumed with STS-114 and 41 months for crew rotation until STS-121.  Several technical and organizational changes were made, including adding a thorough on-orbit inspection to determine how well the shuttle’s thermal protection system had endured the ascent, and keeping a designated rescue mission ready in case irreparable damage was found. Except for one final mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, subsequent shuttle missions were flown only to the ISS so that the crew could use it as a haven in case damage to the orbiter prevented safe reentry.

  • 8:44:09 (EI+000): Entry Intetrface (EI), arbitrarily defined as the point at which the Orbiter entered the discernible atmosphere at 400,000 feet (76 mi), occurred over the Pacific Ocean. (roughly 29 min after the deorbit burn of the shuttle’s engines and rotation to forward looking and upright and at an appropriate reentry attitude nose up)
    • As Columbia descended, the heat of reentry caused wing leading-edge temperatures to rise steadily, reaching an estimated 2,500 °F during the next six minutes. (As former Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale said in a press briefing, about 90% of this heating is the result of compression of the atmospheric gas caused by the orbiter’s supersonic flight, rather than the result of friction.)
  • 8:48:39 (EI+270): A sensor on the left wing leading edge spar showed strains higher than those seen on previous Columbia re-entries.
    • This was recorded only on the Modular Auxiliary Data System, which is similar in concept to a flight data recorder, and was not sent to ground controllers or shown to the crew.
  • 8:49:32 (EI+323)Columbia executed a planned roll to the right. Speed: Mach 24.5.
    • Columbia began a banking turn to manage lift and therefore limit the Orbiter’s rate of descent and heating.
  • 8:50:53 (EI+404)Columbia entered a 10-minute period of peak heating, during which the thermal stresses were at their maximum. Speed: Mach 24.1; altitude: 243,000 feet (46.0 mi).
  • 8:52:00 (EI+471)Columbia was about 300 miles (480 km) west of the California coastline.
    • The wing leading-edge temperatures usually reached 2,650 °F (1,450 °C) at this point.
  • 8:53:26 (EI+557)Columbia crossed the California coast west of Sacramento. Speed: Mach 23; altitude: 231,600 feet (70.6 km; 43.86 mi).
  • The Orbiter’s wing leading edge typically reached more than 2,800 °F (1,540 °C) at this point.
  • 8:53:46 (EI+577): Various people on the ground saw signs of debris being shed. (photo below shows extended streak from left wing – bottom of photo) Speed: Mach 22.8; altitude: 230,200 feet (70.2 km; 43.60 mi).
    • The superheated air surrounding the Orbiter suddenly brightened, causing a streak in the Orbiter’s luminescent trail that was quite noticeable in the pre-dawn skies over the West Coast. Observers witnessed four similar events during the following 23 seconds. Dialogue on some of the amateur footage indicates the observers were aware of the abnormality of what they were filming.
  • 8:54:24 (EI+615): The Maintenance, Mechanical, and Crew Systems (MMACS) officer told the Flight Director that four hydraulic sensors in the left wing were indicating “off-scale low”. In Mission Control, re-entry had been proceeding normally up to this point.
    • “Off-scale low” is a reading that falls below the minimum capability of the sensor, and it usually indicates that the sensor has stopped functioning, due to internal or external factors, not that the quantity it measures is actually below the sensor’s minimum response value.
  • 8:54:25 (EI+616)Columbia crossed from California into Nevada airspace. Speed: Mach 22.5; altitude: 227,400 feet (69.3 km; 43.07 mi).
    • Witnesses observed a bright flash at this point and 18 similar events in the next four minutes.
  • 8:55:00 (EI+651): Nearly 11 minutes after Columbia re-entered the atmosphere, wing leading-edge temperatures normally reached nearly 3,000 °F (1,650 °C).
  • 8:55:32 (EI+683)Columbia crossed from Nevada into Utah. Speed: Mach 21.8; altitude: 223,400 feet (68.1 km; 42.31 mi).
  • 8:55:52 (EI+703)Columbia crossed from Utah into Arizona.
  • 8:56:30 (EI+741)Columbia began a roll reversal, turning from right to left over Arizona.
  • 8:56:45 (EI+756)Columbia crossed from Arizona to New Mexico. Speed: Mach 20.9; altitude: 219,000 feet (67 km; 41.5 mi).
  • 8:57:24 (EI+795)Columbia passed just north of Albuquerque.
  • 8:58:00 (EI+831): At this point, wing leading-edge temperatures typically decreased to 2,880 °F (1,580 °C).
  • 8:58:20 (EI+851)Columbia crossed from New Mexico into Texas. Speed: Mach 19.5; altitude: 209,800 feet (63.9 km; 39.73 mi).
    • At about this time, the Orbiter shed a Thermal Protection System tile, the most westerly piece of debris that has been recovered. Searchers found the tile in a field in Littlefield, Texas, just northwest of Lubbock.
  • 8:59:15 (EI+906): MMACS told the Flight Director that pressure readings had been lost on both left main landing-gear tires. The Flight Director then instructed the Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) to let the crew know that Mission Control saw the messages and was evaluating the indications, and added that the Flight Control Team did not understand the crew’s last transmission.
  • 8:59:32 (EI+923): A broken response from the mission commander was recorded: “Roger, uh, bu – [cut off in mid-word] …” It was the last communication from the crew and the last telemetry signal received in Mission Control.
  • 8:59:37 (EI+928): Hydraulic pressure, which is required to move the flight control surfaces, was lost at about 8:59:37. At that time, the Master Alarm would have sounded for the loss of hydraulics, and the shuttle would have begun to lose control, starting to roll and yaw uncontrollably, and the crew would have become aware of the serious problem.
  • 9:00:18 (EI+969): Videos and eyewitness reports by observers on the ground in and near Dallas indicated that the Orbiter had disintegrated overhead, continued to break up into smaller pieces, and left multiple ion trails, as it continued eastward. In Mission Control, while the loss of signal was a cause for concern, there was no sign of any serious problem. Before the orbiter broke up at 9:00:18, the Columbia cabin pressure was nominal and the crew was capable of conscious actions.  Although the crew module remained mostly intact through the breakup, it was damaged enough that it lost pressure at a rate fast enough to incapacitate the crew within seconds, and was completely depressurized no later than 9:00:53.
  • 9:00:57 (EI+1008): The crew module, intact to this point, was seen breaking into small subcomponents. It disappeared from view at 9:01:10. The crew, if not already dead, were killed no later than this point.
  • 9:05: Residents of north central Texas, particularly near Tyler, reported a loud boom, a small concussion wave, smoke trails and debris in the clear skies above the counties east of Dallas.
  • 9:12:39 (EI+1710): After hearing of reports of the shuttle being seen to break apart, Entry Flight Director LeRoy Cain declared a contingency (events leading to loss of the vehicle) and alerted search-and-rescue teams in the debris area. He called on the Ground Controller to “lock the doors”, meaning no one would be permitted to enter or leave until everything needed for investigation of the accident had been secured.[26] Two minutes later, Mission Control put contingency procedures into effect.

Following protocols established after the loss of Challenger, an independent investigating board was created immediately after the accident. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board, or CAIB, was chaired by retired US Navy Admiral Harold W. Gehman, Jr., and consisted of expert military and civilian analysts who investigated the accident in detail.  Columbia‘s flight data recorder was found near Hemphill, Texas, on March 19, 2003.  Unlike commercial jet aircraft, the space shuttles did not have flight data recorders intended for after-crash analysis. Instead, the vehicle data were transmitted in real time to the ground via telemetry. Since Columbia was the first shuttle, it had a special flight data OEX (Orbiter EXperiments) recorder, designed to help engineers better understand vehicle performance during the first test flights. After the initial Shuttle test-flights were completed, the recorder was never removed from Columbia, and it was still functioning on the crashed flight. It recorded many hundreds of parameters, and contained very extensive logs of structural and other data, which allowed the CAIB to reconstruct many of the events during the process leading to breakup.  Investigators could often use the loss of signals from sensors on the wing to track how the damage progressed.  This was correlated with forensic debris analysis conducted at Lehigh University and other tests to obtain a final conclusion about the probable course of events.  Beginning on May 30, 2003, foam impact tests were performed by Southwest Research Institute. They used a compressed air gun to fire a foam block of similar size and mass to that which struck Columbia, at the same estimated speed. To represent the leading edge of Columbia‘s left wing, RCC panels from NASA stock, along with the actual leading-edge panels from Enterprise, which were fiberglass, were mounted to a simulating structural metal frame. At the beginning of testing, the likely impact site was estimated to be between RCC panel 6 and 9, inclusive. Over many days, dozens of the foam blocks were shot at the wing leading edge model at various angles. These produced only cracks or surface damage to the RCC panels.  During June, further analysis of information from Columbia’s flight data recorder narrowed the probable impact site to one single panel: RCC wing panel 8. On July 7, in a final round of testing, a block fired at the side of an RCC panel 8 created a hole 16 by 16.7 inches in that protective RCC panel.  The tests demonstrated that a foam impact of the type Columbia sustained could seriously breach the thermal protection system on the wing leading edge.  On August 26, 2003, the CAIB issued its report on the accident. The report confirmed the immediate cause of the accident was a breach in the leading edge of the left wing, caused by insulating foam shed during launch. The report also delved deeply into the underlying organizational and cultural issues that led to the accident. The report was highly critical of NASA’s decision-making and risk-assessment processes. It concluded the organizational structure and processes were sufficiently flawed and that a compromise of safety was expected no matter who was in the key decision-making positions. An example was the position of Shuttle Program Manager, where one individual was responsible for achieving safe, timely launches and acceptable costs, which are often conflicting goals. The CAIB report found that NASA had accepted deviations from design criteria as normal when they happened on several flights and did not lead to mission-compromising consequences. One of those was the conflict between a design specification stating that the thermal protection system was not designed to withstand significant impacts and the common occurrence of impact damage to it during flight. The board made recommendations for significant changes in processes and organizational culture.


Ford GT Unveil

During the Super Bowl on 01 February 2004, the first TV commercial airs for the Ford GT, a new, high-performance “supercar” based on Ford’s GT40 race car.  The GT recalls Ford’s historically significant GT40, consecutive four-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1966-1969), including a 1-2-3 finish in 1966. The TV ad for the two-seater Ford GT featured a driver’s eye view of the car noisily zooming around California’s Thunderhill Raceway, and ended with the tag line: “The Pace Car for an Entire Company.”  The history of the GT40 dates back to the early 1960s, when Henry Ford II (1917-1987), head of the Ford Motor Company and grandson of company founder Henry Ford (1863-1947), decided to launch a racing program in order to better promote his company. Ford set his sights on winning the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race, which was dominated in the first half of the 1960s by Italian automaker Ferrari. Endurance racing tested the stamina of both car and driver, and a victory at Le Mans was considered as a testament to a car’s superior engineering. The first Le Mans race was held in 1923; Andre Lagache and Rene Leonard drove 1,373 miles in a Chenard & Walcker auto, for an average speed of 57 mph, to win the event. (Today, along with Le Mans, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Rolex 24 at Daytona are known as the Triple Crown of endurance racing.  See FOD article below) In pursuit of his goal to win races, Henry Ford II attempted in the early 1960s to acquire Ferrari; however, company founder Enzo Ferrari (1898-1988) abruptly pulled out of the deal. Ford went on to invest millions developing its own racing program instead. In 1964, the Ford GT40 (the initials stood for Gran Turismo or Grand Touring; the number represented the car’s height in inches) participated in pre-race testing at Le Mans with lackluster results. Ford then hired car designer  Carroll Shelby  (1923-) to run its racing program. Shelby, a former race car driver, who at Le Mans in 1959 became just the second American to win Le Mans, oversaw improvements to the GT40, and in 1966, Ford’s race cars experienced major success, first at Sebring and Daytona, then at Le Mans. That year in France, the team of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon drove a GT40 MkII a distance of some 3,009 miles with an average speed of 125.39 mph to win the race. The following year, a GT40 Mk IV took first place at Le Mans, while a GT40 Mk I won in 1968 and 1969.

Rule changes after the 1969 race ended the GT40’s four-year winning streak at Le Mans. The street version GT was produced for the 2005 and 2006 model years, with the first customers taking delivery in August 2004. The GT began assembly at Mayflower Vehicle Systems in Norwalk, Ohio and was painted by Saleen in their Saleen Special Vehicles facility in Troy, Michigan. The GT is powered by an engine built at Ford’s Romeo Engine Plant in Romeo, Michigan. Installation of the engine and manual transmission along with interior finishing was handled in the SVT building at Ford’s Wixom, Michigan plant.  Of the 4,500 GTs originally planned, approximately 100 were to be exported to Europe, starting in late 2005. An additional 200 were destined for sale in Canada. Production ended in 2006 without reaching the planned lot. Approximately 550 were built in 2004, nearly 1,900 in 2005, and just over 1,600 in 2006, for a grand total of 4,038. The final 11 car bodies manufactured by Mayflower Vehicle Systems were disassembled, and the frames and body panels were sold as service parts.  A friend of mine Bob has a 2005 model that he drives regularly along with other cars from his collection including some fine street rods, a Ferrari F40 and a McLaren 570S.  I have had the pleasure of sitting in all three, but have not been offered the opportunity to drive any one of these three.  At the 2015 North American International Auto Show and at the unveiling of the 2015 racing video game Forza Motorsport 6, a new Ford GT (second generation) was introduced and is being produced. It marked 50 years since the GT40 won the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans and has run successfully in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans to mark the anniversary, winning the GTE class.  The car is powered by a 3.5 liter twinturbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine making 647 hp and 550 lb⋅ft of torque (The V-6 sounds good, but doesn’t have a V-8 sound or the Ferrari sound – so it’s a different sound)   According to Ford, “the GT will exhibit one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any production car,” thanks to its lightweight carbon fiber construction. Underpinning the GT is a carbon fiber monocoque bolted to aluminum front and rear subframes covered in carbon fiber body panels. The car also has racing inspired pushrod suspension, active aerodynamics, and dihedral doors.   You can select street, track or race suspension settings.  The windshield of the vehicle is made of Gorilla Glass manufactured by Corning, which is also used for Smartphone screens.  Gorilla Glass is used to reduce the weight of the vehicle by allowing for a thinner windscreen with the same strength.  Production began in December 2016, with Ford planning to build the GT at a rate of one car per day in their new, low-volume assembly facility at Multimatic in Markham, Ontario until October 2020. Vehicles produced in 2017 and 2018 are reserved for selected GT buyers, 2019 vehicles for buyers passed over in the initial selection process, and 2020 vehicles for new customers.  Now if you’re a car guy or watch the television show Jay Leno’s Garage you’ll know the answer to the car trivia questions of the day.  Who owns that first production Ford GT sold?  And who owns the first delivered second generation Ford GT40?  Answer to both questions: Jay Leno.  That second generation Ford GT40 was delivered on the show.


Hurley Haywood Goes For Fifth Title at Daytona

Hurley Haywood is said to be America’s most decorated endurance driver in history. Hurley has won multiple events, including five overall victories at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, three at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and two at the 12 Hours of Sebring. He is credited with the 1988 Trans-Am title, two IMSA GT Championship titles and 23 wins, three Norelco Cup championships, a SuperCar title and 18 IndyCar starts.  On February 2, 1991 he started in what was to become his fifth victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.  At Daytona, drivers compete on a 3.56-mile course and the winning car typically drives some 4,000 kilometers, or about 2,485 miles. Because it would be too dangerous for a single person to race for the entire 24 hours, teams of at least three drivers are required under today’s rules.   The 24 Hours of Daytona (now known as the Rolex 24 at Daytona), along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring, are considered the Triple Crown of endurance racing, a sport that tests the stamina of both car and driver.  He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1977 (Porsche 936), 1983 (Porsche 956) and 1994 (Dauer 962 Le Mans) and is tied as the most successful driver at the 24 Hours of Daytona with 5 wins (1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, and 1991).[1] He won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1973 and 1981. He also drove in the 1980 Indianapolis 500 finishing 18th. He represented IMSA four times in the International Race of Champions (1986, 1989, 1992, 1995).[2] In 1970, he was drafted into the Vietnam War where he served as Specialist 4. After completing his tour of duty, he won his first IMSA GT title in 1971.  He is the chief driving instructor at the Porsche Sport Driving School, held at the Barber Motorsports Park outside Birmingham, Alabama.  It’s a beautiful and most challenging track.  It’s worth a bucket list visit.


Fireball’s Go Fund Me Site – I Need A Bugatti Chiron

So while we’re talking cars here, I need for all of you to help me fund the purchase of a Bugatti ChironI’ve mentioned Bugattis in earlier editions of FOD, but this one is special.  They’re only going to build 500 of them and I know that 200 were sold prior to the first delivery.  And I’m not going to argue over the color – any color will do.  The engine is a carryover piece from the Veyron, its predecessor is the 8-litre W16 quad-turbocharged engine, though it is heavily updated. The Chiron has 1,479 bhp of power and 1,180 lb⋅ft of torque starting from 2000 rpm. Its predecessor Veyron SS makes 295 bhp less than the new Chiron, the Veyron produces 1,184 bhp.  Like its predecessor, the Veyron, it has a carbon fiber body structure, independent suspension and a Haldex AWDsystem.  The carbon fiber body has a stiffness of 50,000 Nm per degree.  The Chiron can accelerate from 60 mph in 2.4 seconds according to the manufacturer, 0 – 120 mph in 6.5 seconds and 0–190 mph in 13.6 seconds. In a world-record-setting test, Chiron reached 250 mph in 32.6 seconds, after which it needed 9.4 seconds to brake to standstill.  The Chiron’s top speed is electronically limited to 261 mph for safety reasons.  Why such an artificial constraint remains a mystery to me.

The anticipated full top speed of the Bugatti Chiron is believed to be around 288 mph.  The first 200 Chirons were sold before the first delivery of the car.  The base price is 2,400,000 (US$2,700,000), and buyers were required to place a 200,000 (US$226,000) deposit.  So it’s important we act fast.  And once it’s delivered there is a requirement that a Bugatti mechanic must come from the factory and inspect the car annually.  That fee begins with a $25,000 requirement for this mechanical inspection regardless of the mileage driven.  And a new set of tires must be purchased each year, again regardless of the mileage driven.  Tires cost around $40,000/set for the Chiron.  I’ll give each of you a ride!   It’s well worth the investment.


’31 Chevy Update

I’m down in SoCal working on the ’31 Chevy.  The body is back from the first body work effort.  I’ve reinstalled the body on the chassis and am fitting the doors, hood (new hood with new hood latch system), mounted radiator and shell so as to be able to fit and adjust new hood, sealed inside of vehicle with POR-15 so no rust of corrosion can begin from inside.  Next steps, refit fenders, running boards and body transition pieces.  Once all are adjusted then car will be disassembled again for body blocking and primer coat.  Car will then be assembled one last time prior to paint and any corrections will be made.  The we disassemble again and paint.  Then reassemble and build out wiring and all systems.  I hope to be able to drive it by August.



SS Dorchester Sinks With Four Chaplains Aboard

The Four Chaplains, also sometimes referred to as the “Immortal Chaplains” or the “Dorchester Chaplains”, were four United States Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel as the troop ship SS Dorchester sank 75 years ago on February 3, 1943, during World War II. February third also marks National Four Chaplains Memorial Day.  They helped other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out.  The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.  The relatively new chaplains all held the rank of first lieutenant. They included Methodist minister the Reverend George L. Fox, (left) Reform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (Ph.D.) (below left), Roman Catholic priest Father John P. Washington, (below right) and Reformed Church in America minister the Reverend Clark V. Poling. (second below right) Their backgrounds, personalities, and denominations were different, although Goode, Poling and Washington had all served as leaders in the Boy Scouts of America.  They met at the Army Chaplains School at Harvard University, where they prepared for assignments in the European theater, sailing on board Dorchester to report to their new assignments.  

Dorchester left New York on January 23, 1943, en route to Greenland, carrying the four chaplains and approximately 900 others, as part of a convoy of three ships (SG-19 convoy).

Most of the military personnel were not told the ship’s ultimate destination. The convoy was escorted by Coast Guard Cutters TampaEscanaba, and Comanche.  Dorchester’s captain, Hans J. Danielsen, had been alerted that Coast Guard sonar had detected a submarine. Because German U-boats were monitoring sea lanes and had attacked and sunk ships earlier during the war, Captain Danielsen had the ship’s crew on a state of high alert even before he received that information, ordering the men to sleep in their clothing and keep their life jackets on. ”

Many soldiers sleeping deep in the ship’s hold disregarded the order because of the engine’s heat. Others ignored it because the life jackets were uncomfortable.”  During the early morning hours of February 3, 1943, at 12:55 a.m., the vessel was torpedoed by the German submarine U-223 off Newfoundland in the North Atlantic.  The torpedo knocked out the Dorchester‘s electrical system, leaving the ship dark. Panic set in among the men on board, many of them trapped below decks. The chaplains sought to calm the men and organize an orderly evacuation of the ship, and helped guide wounded men to safety. As life jackets were passed out to the men, the supply ran out before each man had one. The chaplains removed their own life jackets and gave them to others. They helped as many men as they could into lifeboats, and then linked arms and, saying prayers and singing hymns, went down with the ship.  According to some reports, survivors could hear different languages mixed in the prayers of the chaplains, including Jewish prayers in Hebrew and Catholic prayers in Latin. Only 230 of the 904 men aboard the ship were rescued. Life jackets offered little protection from hypothermia, which killed most men in the water. The water temperature was 34 °F (1 °C) and the air temperature was 36 °F (2 °C). By the time additional rescue ships arrived, “hundreds of dead bodies were seen floating on the water, kept up by their life jackets.”  Sea of Glory: Based on the True WW II Story of the Four Chaplains and the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, written by Ken Wales and David Poling, is Fireball’s recommended read.


On February 4:

1974 Patty Hearst kidnapped

1789 Washington unanimously elected by Electoral College to first and second terms

1945 Yalta Conference foreshadows the Cold War


On February 5:

1918 U.S. steamship Tuscania is torpedoed and sinks

1989 The last Soviet troops leave Kabul


Also On February 6:

1952 Elizabeth becomes queen

1937 Of Mice and Men is published


USS Growler (SS-215) Remembered

If you have visited Pier 86, site of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, you likely noticed the USS Growler (SSG-577) on permanent display across the pier. This Growler was the second and final submarine of the Grayback class.  It was the fourth ship of the United States Navy to be named after the Growler type of Largemouth bass.  Growler and Grayback were the only two submarines built in this class as instead, the U.S. Navy redirected its nuclear deterrence efforts into submarine launched ballistic missiles (SSBMs) — the Polaris missile program.  Her predecessor, the USS USS Growler (SS-215) warrants our thoughts today however.  Growler-215 was a Gato-class submarine, launched on 02 November 1941 and commissioned 20 March 1942.  She saw immediate action in the Pacific theatre of operations during WWII.  Her first commanding officer and plankowner was LCDR Howard W. Gilmore, a ’26 grad of the United States Naval AcademyCommander Gilmore led the Growler and her crew on her first four combat patrols.   During her first patrol, on 5 July 1942 Growler attacked three enemy destroyers off Kiska, sinking one and severely damaging the other two, while narrowly avoiding two torpedoes fired in return, for which Gilmore received the Navy Cross.  On his second patrol, Growler sank four merchant ships totaling 15,000 tons in the East China Sea near Taiwan Gilmore received a gold star in lieu of a second Navy Cross.  Growler continued to pursue and sink enemy shipping in the TrukRabaul shipping lanes on her fourth patrol.  On 11 January ‘43, she maneuvered inside a convoy’s escorts, and launched two torpedoes while surfaced.  They hit home sinking Chifuku Maru, a passenger/cargo ship.  Her war diary reports she was now within 400 yards of a Japanese destroyer.  She crash dives to avoid the destroyer and breaks off the attack. Gilmore then guided Growler through intense depth charge attacks.  A few days later, shortly after 0100 on 07 February, Growler stealthily approached another convoy for a night surface attack. The fast escort, Hayasaki suddenly maneuvered to ram Growler. Gilmore sounded the collision alarm and shouted, “Left full rudder!” — to no avail. Perhaps inadvertently, Growler hit the Japanese adversary amidships at 17 knots (31 km/h), heeling the submarine 50 degrees, bending 18 feet of her bow sideways to port, and disabling the forward torpedo tubes.  Simultaneously, the Japanese crew unleashed a burst of machine gun fire at Growler’s bridge, killing the junior officer of the deck, Ensign William Wadsworth Williams and a lookout, Fireman Third Class Wilbert Fletcher Kelley.   Gilmore himself wounded by the fusillade of bullets, commanded, “Clear the bridge!” He struggled to hang on to a frame as the rest of the bridge party dropped down the hatch into the conning tower.  The executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Arnold Schade — shaken by the impact and dazed by his own fall into the control room — waited expectantly for his captain to appear. Instead from above came the shouted command, “Take her down!” Realizing that he could not get below in time if the ship were to escape, Gilmore chose to make the supreme sacrifice for his shipmates. Schade hesitated briefly — then followed his captain’s last order and submerged the crippled ship.  Surfacing some time later in hope of reattacking the Hayasaki, Schade found the seas empty. The Japanese ship had, in fact, survived the encounter, but there was no sign of Gilmore, who apparently had drifted away in the night. Schade and Growler’s well-trained crew managed to control the ship’s flooding and limped back to Brisbane, Australia on February 17.  For sacrificing himself to save his ship, Commander Howard W. Gilmore was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, “the second man of the submarine force to be so decorated. Following refit and extensive repairs, the submarine was nicknamed the Kangaroo Express, as the refabricated bow proudly displayed two nickel kangaroos as decorations.


A Look At e The Irrational Number

I’m sure there are a few FOD readers who recall “e” is one of the most interesting irrational numbers that arises naturally.  And because e =2.718281828459…, and because e begins with the digits 2 and 7, we celebrate e day on February 7the is one of those special irrational numbers like “pi” where π =3.141592653…. (celebrated on March 14th)(And as you’ll recall the last eight digits of which is my new pin for everything).  Then there’s the “phi” where = 1.6180339887…, which is the so-called “beauty ratio.”  The number e was “discovered” by several mathematicians ( William Oughtred,  Christian Huygens, Jacob Bernoulli, John Napier, Mercator,  and Leibniz) (I’m sure you all remember those guys – everyone just a party animal) but they didn’t quite know they had stumbled on it and didn’t necessarily know its significance at first.  There are some curious properties of e, one of which is that it’s the limiting value of this expression: We start with n = 1 (we cannot start with 0, because that would give a fraction with 0 in the denominator).  So what is e good for? See Exponential and Logarithmic FunctionsIt is used extensively in logarithms (which was the only way to do difficult calculations for hundreds of years before calculators came along), exponential growth (of populations, money or drug concentrations over time) and complex numbers (which were used to design the computer or mobile device you are reading this on).  Now that’s more info than you should ever have to know unless you run into that Oughtred dude at a party.  You’ll know him right off as he carries around e beers, but has to pee after π beers.


Astronaut Becomes Satellite

During a Space Shuttle Mission on February 7, 1984, NASA astronauts Captain  Bruce McCandless II, United States Navy, and Robert L. Stewart, United States Air Force, left the Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) on the first untethered space walk.  In doing so they became human satellites.  On this mission, McCandless conducted a spacewalk using the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU).  The MMU was designed and built by Martin Marietta Corporation (now, Lockheed Martin). It is constructed primarily of aluminum. The MMU is powered by two batteries with 852 watts at full charge, and propelled by 24 gaseous nitrogen thrusters, providing 1.4 pounds of each.  Two hand controllers allowed for six-axis motion.  The MMU was designed to retrieve communication satellites, repair them, or facilitate their restoration or initial placement to their proper orbits.  It was used to capture Westar VI and Palapa B2 satellites.  After the safety review following the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the MMU was judged too risky for further use and it was found many activities planned for the MMU could be done effectively with manipulator arms or traditional tethered EVAs.  What likely drove this was NASA discontinued contracts that utilized the shuttle for commercial or DoD satellite capture/repair.  McCandless is the son of Bruce McCandless, and grandson of Willis W. Bradley, both decorated war heroes.  Bruce McCandless was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II for his heroism on board the USS San Francisco (CA-38), during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, November 13, 1942.  (Read the book Neptune’s Inferno: The US Navy at Guadalcanal, also on the Fireball Book List).  Bruce McCandless II graduated second in a class of 899 from the U.S. Naval Academy (Class of 1958), along with John McCain and John PoindexterAnd he’s another Phantom driver, having flown the F-4B Phantom II from the USS Enterprise during the Cuban Missile Crisis with VF-102.




Beatles Arrive In New York

For those friends of FOD of a certain age, February 7, 1964 marked the starting-point of the British InvasionFor on that day The Beatles‘ , John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, arrived in America at John F. Kennedy International Airport from London aboard Pan American World Airways’ Flight 101, a Boeing 707-331, serial number 17683, N704PA, named Jet Clipper Defiance. They were welcomed by an estimated 4,000 fans and 200 journalists.  During their first three week tour, they performed twice on The Ed Sullivan Show, singing one of their breakthrough hits, “I Want to Hold Your Hand“—which sold one-and-a-half million copies in under three weeks. 


And A Couple Of Events From February 7:

1775 Benjamin Franklin publishes “An Imaginary Speech”

1990 Soviet Communist Party gives up monopoly on political power

1968 Forensic evidence solves a crime