FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day December 27, 2016

Yesterday was Boxing Day.  I though it just another ‘Black Friday’ shopping day or a day for taking back those duplicate Chia Pets, and exchange them for Chia Emojis or the new Chia Trump.  In the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada Boxing Day however, Boxing Day is an official bank holiday.  Throughout the UK and her former colonies it’s also a day for soccer and rugby.  In this country of course the day begins the series of those much lesser football bowl games, building for the ultimate money grabbing bowls later on.


This year Chanukah or Hanukkah, the Jewish “festival of lights” began on December 24th and runs through January 1st.  The holiday commemorates the defeat of the Greek-Syrians rulers and the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  The Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was in and of itself a miracle in that it occurred against a greatly superior military force.  When they sought to relight the Holy Temple’s Menorah (the nine-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil.  They lit the menorah anyway and miraculously the one day’s supply lasted for eight days until new oil could be prepared in accordance with the required conditions of ritual purity. Today, in addition to kids receiving a gift each night, it’s also customary to enjoy foods fried in oil, like latke (kind of a potato pancake).  I think they’re best enjoyed with applesauce, but sour cream is good too. And of course if you’ve stopped by Norm’s desk lately you can play with the dreidel, a four sided spinning top and win yourself a few ‘chocolate gelt’, foil-covered coins.


During the Civil War in 1862, the USS Red Rover became the US Navy’s first ship to have women serve aboard.  She was a 650 ton Confederate States side-wheel steamer captured by the US Navy and refitted as a hospital ship serving with the Mississippi Squadron until the end of the Civil War.  “Hot Lips” Houlihan’s great-great-grandmother was not among the initial cadre however.  The nurses were from the Catholic order Sisters of the Holy Cross.  In addition to caring for wounded men, Red Rover provided medical supplies to Navy ships along the Western Rivers.  She was the closest thing to the medical evac of her day.


On this day in 1919, William Boeing’s designed Boeing Model 6 makes its first flight.  It’s also known as the B-1 and was the first commercial plane made by Boeing.  The pilot sat in the open cockpit bow and one or two passengers could be carried in the aft open cockpit.  Only one was built and it was used mainly to carry mail between Seattle and Victoria, BC.  You can see it on your next trip to the Museum of History and Industry HOHAI) in the former Coast Guard building at the south end of Lake Union, next to the Center of Wooden Boats.  Both great places to visit!


On this day in 1949 both American Airlines and TWA initiate coast-to-coast coach-class flights using 60-passengers DC-4’s.  A ticket would have cost you $110 one-way.  And you got a free checked bag, plus a meal.


On 27 December 1951, the North American XFJ-2B makes its first flight.  It was the third prototype in the test series of four aircraft.  These test aircraft were prototypes for the North American FJ-2/-3 Fury.  The FJ-2 and FJ-3 were a series of swept-wing carrier-capable fighters designed for the US Navy and Marine Corps and were an effort to ‘navalize’ the USAF’s F-86 Sabre.  A swept-winged jet was needed immediately to combat the superior performance of the swept-winged Soviet MiG-15’s then operating in the Korean War.  These aircraft had folding wings and a longer nose landing gear.  The longer nose strut allowed an increased AOA for launch and recovery.  In addition the larger oleo facilitated larger carrier landing loads.  While sharing the designation of the straight-winged North American FJ-1, the FJ-2/-3 Fury was a completely different aircraft.  The FJ-2 became one of the first aircraft used to evaluate the first steam catapults on US Navy carriers.


Fireball’s Observations of the Day






OK, now I’m off to go skiing.

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day December 23, 2016

Yesterday’s release was a bit late.  I promise improvements to the site are coming.  What I need is a Millennial, who is without work, who might help me…………

Today is of course Festivus.  If Tiny Tim from were here today, he would say, “Happy Festivus and  bless us every one.” Hopefully you have not waited too long to obtain your Festivus pole.  The miracles of Festivus do take some planning you know.  I understand there was some pushing and shoving at a local Home Depot a few days ago as there was an apparent run of Festivus poles.  Fortunately no decorations are required.







Traditionally meat loaf is served but this year I’m serving a tuna loaf so as to reduce my consumption of red meat. 

I know I have prepared my list for the Airing of Grievances and the associated Feats of Strength – have you?  I’ve been ‘thinking’ about working out at LA Fitness all week, well for two days in preparation.  Enjoy Festivus with your family and invite some friends over as well as no one should be alone on Festivus.



On this day in 1910 Lt. Theodore G. “Spuds” Ellyson receives his orders to North Island, San Diego, CA for instruction in aviation under Glenn Curtis  He knew as many naval aviators after him knew that it’s best to go to San Diego if you want to meet great women; no, no, no, I mean, learn how to fly Navy airplanes. He is designed Naval Aviator Number 1. 

Spuds had a varied and diverse career.  After his graduation from USNA, Class of 1905, he served on six ships and commanded the USS Tarantula a submarine, and another submarine, the USS Seal prior to his assignment to flight training.  He worked closely with Glenn Curtis in designing a float-plane and participated in early experiments using float-planes from ships.  During WWI, he was assigned duty aboard a submarine chaser and was awarded the Navy Cross for distinguished service in developing successful tactics for the submarine chaser squadron.  In 1926, he was assigned as Executive Officer of the USS Lexington the Navy’s second aircraft carrier. (This photo shows Lady Lex just prior to her sinking at the Battle of Coral Sea in WWII).

Spuds was killed on his 43th birthday, in 1928 in a crash of a Loening OL-7 aircraft in the lower Chesapeake Bay.  He’s buried in the Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis.  As undergrads at USNA, my roommate, Doug Law and I once toasted a beer at his grave-site.



On this day in 1968, the captain and crew of the USS Pueblo were released after 11 month of imprisonment and torture by North Korea.

Pueblo was a spy ship (a joint Naval and National Security Agency program) gathering electronic intel off the coast of North Korea when she was captured after a attempting evasive maneuvering against several much faster North Korean sub-chasers, three torpedo boats and two MiG-21s. She had a .50-caliber machine gun, but it was wrapped in cold weather tarpaulins and was never manned.  Air cover from the Fifth Air Force was promised but never appeared as they had no aircraft on alert.  F-4B’s aboard the USS Enterprise were over 500 miles away and were armed for air-to-air.  In the 90 min it took to reconfigure those F-4’s the Pueblo had been captured. Her Commanding Officer,  CDR Lloyd M. Bucher was psychologically tortured including a mock firing squad in an effort to make him confess.  Eventually the Koreans threatened to execute his men in front of him. Bucher decided to confess.  He wrote this confession: “We paeon the DPRK (North Korea).  We paeon the great leader Kim Il Sung,” (paeon – pronounced pee-on). His captures failed to realize the pun.  Little of the highly classified material and equipment aboard was destroyed prior to capture and the North Koreans with the help of the USSR and China were able to reverse engineer some of the most important communications and encryption equipment.  With the able assistance of the John Walker spy ring, they obtained the codes necessary to access some of the US Navy’s communications until the late 1980’s when those systems were changed.  Bucher’s book, Bucher: My Story, gives a good personal account.



23 December 1974: The first of four prototype Rockwell B-1A Lancer Mach 2.2 strategic bombers, serial number 74-0158, made its first flight from Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California. The aircraft commander was company test pilot Charles C. Bock, Jr. (Colonel, U.S. Air Force, retired) with pilot Colonel Emil Sturmthal, U.S. Air Force, and flight test engineer Richard Abrams. After basic flight evaluation, the B-1A landed at Edwards Air Force Base.  Only the four prototypes were built as the USAF and the defense industry struggled with the requirements for and the technology available for a manned bomber capable of low-level penetration bombing.  Eventually the B version went onto production and about 100 of those aircraft were built.  I can tell you they are fast and hard to run down.  Much of the technology flowed to the B-2.

This time of year there are many organizations we should be recognize, not just for the work they do during the holiday season, but for their continued efforts throughout the year.  We drop a couple bucks in the red Salvation Army kettle this time of year.  This is their annual fund drive time and I would encourage us all to give a few dollars for the good work they do.  However I would challenge each of us to seek involvement on a higher level, get involved personally, make a difference in the life of someone not just at Christmas time, but every day of the year.  And that’s why I’m asking you to support Millennial International.  I hope this link will encourage you to get involved.

Lastly for this post, it was pointed out to me that a reindeer named Fireball played a less than major, but critical role (for there are no small roles in show business you know) in the 1964 television special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Fireball is a young buck who befriends Rudolph during those “reindeer games” and is there to cheer his exploits at the end after Rudolph has saved Christmas.


I’m going skiing through New Years so this might be my last post till 2017. That PC Happy Holiday crap is just that – crap. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day December 21, 2016

The grunt work continues on how to make the site and the blog better.  I took down the welcome mat.  I thought it was a pain.  And I actually have not figured out the “how to subscribe feature yet.

I’ve been following the story line regarding the Chinese Navy’s seizure of an unclassified American underwater drone in international waters some 57 miles northwest of Subic Bay near the Philippines.  The seizure was in violation of international law and the common standards of professionalism between navies at sea.  Well, now they’ve given it back. Likely the entire incident was China’s response to President-elect Trump’s speaking with Taiwan’s president.  The underlying issue remains China’s continued assertive posture in the South China Sea aimed at projecting its power in a region that sees trillions of dollars of trade traverse annually.  The unencumbered ability of all countries to fly, sail and operate in the South China Sea puts the US on a conflicting trajectory with China and promises to impact US naval strategies in both the near and long term.

Yesterday, Steve Schmidt and Dan Draeger completed a 55 minute flight in the Boeing T-X design.  (Now those guys have a good website and an ‘add your comment’ box).  One of the unique design features of the Boeing-Saab design allows the rear cockpit’s pilot to have a great all-around view of the front cockpit, a valuable tool for the instructor during flight training.
The T-X is a joint Boeing-Saab development effort It’s reported we, no, they, (I forgot I was retired for a minute) went from CDR (critical design review) to first flight in 12 months.  There are at least four next-gen training aircraft designs that have flown and we’ve yet to see the Air Force release of the RFP (Request For Proposal), but it’s expected before the end of the year.

On this day in 1968, Apollo 8 launched and became the first manned spaceship to leave Earth orbit, reach Earth’s moon, orbit it and return.  Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell  and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders made the flight.  For those of us of a certain age I remember the live television address from Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve.  Apollo 8 Genesis reading – Wikipedia.  The crew read the first 10 verses from the Book of Genesis.  At the time of the broadcast it was the most watched TV broadcast ever.  The Apollo 8 mission was originally planned as an elliptical medium Earth orbit that would include the entire spacecraft including the Lunar Module and Command/Service Module .
But when the Lunar Module proved it was not ready to fly in December 1968, Apollo 9’s more ambitious lunar orbit flight without the Lunar Module was brought left.  In doing so, the crew had two to three fewer months to plan their flight, train and prepare.

The crew returned to Earth and splashed down in the Northern Pacific on December 27, 1968.  They were named Time magazine’s “Men of the Year” in 1968.   (Left to right: Lovell, Anders and Borman)

On this day in 1988, Pan American World Airways’ Flight 103 departed Heathrow (LHR) bound for John F. Kennedy International (JFK) in New York.  At 1903L, a time bomb placed inside the luggage carried in the cargo hold detonated at FL310.  The explosive decompression magnified the effects of the original device facilitating the breakup of the B-747-121, named Clipper Maid of the Seas.  The wreckage fell to the ground over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland.
All 259 souls aboard the flight and another 11 on the ground were killed.  The impact crater shows where the wing and fuselage sections landed.  Roughly 200,000 of jet fuel ignited and destroyed many homes in the small town. 

After years of investigation followed by US and UN sanctions against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan government handed over two Libyan nationals who were found responsible for the bombing.  Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment after having been found guilty of 270 counts of murder.  He was released from prison in August 2009 on compassionate grounds (something he never extended to his victims) and died in Libya in 2012.  In 2003, Gaddafi accepted responsibility for this terrorist act and paid some compensation to the families of the victims.

And on this day in 1970, At the Grumman Aerospace Corporation plant, Calverton, Long Island, New York, Chief Test Pilot Robert Kenneth Smyth and Project Test Pilot William Howard Miller took off on the very first flight of the F-14A-1-GR Tomcat, Bu. No. 157980  The Tomcat was armed with a 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan six-barrel Gatling gun and could carry a combination of AIM-54 Phoenix ling range air-to-air missiles, AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.  In the 1990’s the US Navy added the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared and Night (LANTIRN) pod allowing the F-14 to perform precision ground-attack missions as well.  It’s large size was dictated by the geometry of the AWG-9 radar and the Phoenix Missile System.  In a two-circle or three-circle air combat engagement you could lose sight of your smaller bogey, but he would never lose sight of you.  The F-14 remained the primary maritime air superiority fighter, interceptor and tactical aerial reconnaissance platform through 2006 and was the only aircraft to have a long-range missile system, an element lacking in today’s fifth generation fighters.  The F-14 had lots of moving parts in the landing pattern, flaps, slats, speedbrake, spoilers, rudders and horizontal stabilizers.  All those things flapping earned it the nickname “Turkey.”  It did its job for a generation as nobody wanted to go up against the F-14 in combat.  I have 1189 hours in the F-14.–with-twogeneral-electric-f-110-engines-and-the-fully-digital-apg-71-radar-system–makes-a-supersonic-pass-1.  It’s an fairly easy fighter aircraft to fly, but difficult to fly well particularly at the edges of the envelope. 

Having flown the F-8, the F-4, the F-14 and the F/A-18 if you want to go to war – be in the Tomcat.  This photo is actually me in the near F-14 (top) with my RIO “Boog” Powel overhead the USS Constellation (CV-64) on an unusual sunny Summer day in the Indian Ocean.  The photo became a popular poster.  I’m still looking for my residuals check!

And today is National Crossword Puzzle Day.  The first crossword puzzle was actually published on December 21, 1913 in the Sunday edition of the New York World.  I recommend, if you’re a fan, try the New York Times puzzles.  They increase in difficulty as the week goes from Monday to Sunday.

And today is also National Flashlight Day, likely because this is the shortest day of the year and hence the need for a flashlight as an actual light as opposed to place where you store dead batteries.  The flashlight was invented in 1898 by Joshua Lionel Cowen.  However his greatest invention was not the flashlight, but the Lionel train.


FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day 20 December 2016

The blog continues to “develop,” and it’s a work in progress. I don’t have all the answers yet on just how the process works, but I’m working on it.  I hope you’ll be able to:

1 View it

2 Read it

3 Be able to leave a comment – if not today, in the near future.

4 Be able to subscribe to it.

5 Eventually I hope to be able to facilitate greater contributions and                interactions among readers, a long way of saying I’m still trying                  to figure it all out.

Tomorrow is the winter of hibernal solstice.  It’s the beginning of winter.  It’s the shortest day of the year with Seattle only seeing 8hr and 26min of daylight.  And it’s only 56 days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training!

Over the weekend, Roger went skiing at Mission Ridge  It’s a great little ski area with a nice high speed quad.  On a stormy and foggy night in September 30, 1944, a Walla Walla Army Air Force Base B-24 Liberator was off course and in the darkness and weather crashed in to Mission Ridge just 500 feet below the crest.  There were no survivors.

A section of the wing is mounted at the top of what’s now called “Bomber Bowl” just off the Liberator chair lift. There’s small plaque to commemorate the event and honor those who were serving their country.

This Controlled Flight Into Terrain CFIT) event occurred long before we had the technology to prevent this type of accident.

Let’s move forward to this date in 1995.  American Airlines Flight 965 leaves KMIA enroute to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport in Cali, Columbia.  The flight departed roughly two hours late due to a winter storm in the northeast and seasonal congestion of air traffic at KMIA.  Approaching Cali, the winds were calm and the controller asked AA-965 if they wanted to straight in to RWY 19 rather than coming around to RWY 01.  The crew in an effort to make up for some of their lost time accepted the new arrival and deleted the arrival to RWY 01 from the FMS  Cali had no functional radar to monitor the flight as it had been blown up by a terror group in 1992.  The controller cleared AA-965 for the approach and requested a check in over a waypoint that had been erased from the FMS LEGS page.  By the time they relocated and entered the point into the FMS, they had passed the point.  The crew then consulted their paper chart for the next waypoint on the approach profile, Rozo.  They were high on the new approach profile.  The pilot flying (PF) retarded the throttles and extended the speed brakes to begin their descent to RWY 19.   The Rozo NDB was identified as R on their charts.  The crew, now pressed for time, selected the first R from their database.  Columbia had duplicated the identifier for the Rozo NDB and the Romeo NDB near Bogatá and using their convention had listed the identifier near the largest city first.  Only by selecting the full name of Rozo would the crew have been able to identify this waypoint.  By selecting and executing R as the active waypoint, the autopilot initiated a turn east and a path toward Bogotá in a wide semicircle.  By the time the error was detected, the aircraft had descended into a box canyon roughly parallel to the one they should have been in.  Twelve seconds prior to impact the Ground Proximity Warning System activated with its associated warning.  Within one second the PF, the FO, disengaged the autopilot and advanced the throttles full forward.  However neither crew member retracted the speedbrakes located on the left side of the throttle levers and a bit harder to retard from the right seat.  There is no auto-speedbrake retract on the B-757 nor is there an EICAS message generated.  AA-965 impacted a 9800 foot mountain named El Diluvio (The Deluge) at the 8900 foot level.  Because neither the Boeing ECab nor the CDU/FMS simulator could be backdriven with the data obtained from the flight data recorder (FDR), it was never determined with precision whether AA-965 would have cleared the ridge if the speedbrakes had been retracted.   The NTSB report offered that had the crew retracted the speedbrakes one second after initiating the escape maneuver they could have been climbing through a position 150 feet above the impact point. As a new pup working Air Line Pilot Association issues, I was a member of the ARAC that recommended adaption of the Enhanced GPWS  ALPA was also asked by the Allied Pilots Association (American Airlines pilots union) to assist in the accident investigation.  Again as that young pup I was assigned to the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) Group.  It was my first commercial airline accident investigation.  I’ll just say this: No matter what position you hold as a pilot or crewmember or safety advocate, never, never, ever support any change that would allow the release of the CVR audio.  The effect of the adoption of GPWS and EGPWS rules and equipment is a success story in that there has not been a single passenger fatality in a CFIT crash of a large jet in US airspace since this equipment has been mandated.

20 December 1968: After 199 flights, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration cancelled the X-15 Hypersonic Research Program.

AFFTC History Office

A 200th X-15 flight had been scheduled, but after several delays, the decision was made to end the program. (The last actual flight attempt was 12 December 1968, but snow at several of the dry lakes used as emergency landing areas resulted in the flight being cancelled.)

If you have a reasonable singing voice, or if you bring libations for me in particular and you, you’re welcome to stand outside my place and observe National Go Caroling Day.  Speaking of caroling, there is a very funny parody of It’s a Wonderful Life and It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year out there.  Check it out. .  Thanks Norm for the heads up on this.

Today is also Mudd Day when we remember Dr. Samuel Mudd (it’s his birthday)  who provided medical assistance to John Wilkes Booth after Booth had assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on the evening of Good Friday, April 14, 1864.  Dr. Mudd was known to Booth, having met him when Booth was hatching a plan to kidnap Lincoln and exchange him for Confederate POWs.  Booth and conspirator David Herold rode to Mudd’s [ctct]home in the early morning of April 15, 1864, where Booth received treatment for the broken leg he suffered while jumping to the stage at Ford’s Theatre. He was convicted as a conspirator in the Lincoln murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.  He served as the prison doctor during a yellow fever outbreak at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas  about 70 miles west of Key West.  He was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson.  On your next visit to Key West, I recommend a trip to the Dry Tortugas.  It’s a good trip and will allow you to prepare for your next Duval Crawl in Key West.

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day

19 December 2016


On this day in 1732, Benjamin Franklin published Poor Richard’s Almanack.  It’s the Fireball’s Observations of its Day, with some added preaching of prudence.  It was certainly one of the most popular publications in colonial America and was published continuously for 25 years.  Over 10,000 copies per year were printed and distributed.  Franklin’s interests varied widely, yet he continued to maintain an interest in science, politics and certainly the art of negotiation throughout his life.  He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and was instrumental in persuading France to lend military assistance to the colonies during the Revolutionary War.


Pamphlet publication and newspapers were the information sources of the day in the late eighteen century and a skilled blogger, I mean writer could mobilize an emerging nation.  Thomas Paine was an author and an orator that could inspire all those around him.  His Common Sense had been instrumental in persuading the colonists to declare independence from the British and to engage the British in a fight for independence.  In the midst of the Revolutionary War and after Washington was forced to retreat from New York City and across New Jersey his troops and the fledgling nation needed a shot in the arm.  Realizing the power of the pen, Thomas Paine on this day in 1776, published a second pamphlet American Crisis

These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”  These words, read by Washington to his dispirited troops, invigorated his soldiers and mustered their remaining hopes for victory and independence.  On Christmas night Washington and his forces crossed the icy Delaware River, surprised and defeated the Hessians and again on January 2, 1777, defeated Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Princeton.  These victories greatly influenced the French to side with the Patriot cause.



During 1777, George Washington and his 11,000 Patriot forces enter winter camp at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania just north from British-occupied Philadelphia which had been the capital of the United States.  Washington had recently suffered major defeats at the battles of Brandywine, and Germantown.  Many troops had enlistments that were expiring or that had expired.  They had not been paid and they had few supplies to sustain their camp.  The winter of 1777-1778 was particularly brutal. 

Valley Forge is on the west bank of the Schuykill River and could be effectively defended in the event of a winter attack by the British.  Hundreds of troops died from disease.  A late arrival Prussian military adviser Frederick von Steuben established sound military routine with drills, improved sanitary conditions and trained the soldiers in modern military strategy.  Washington stayed with his men and they emerged in the spring a stronger and more effective fighting force than when they had entered winter camp.  Just nine days after breaking camp on June 19,1 778 they won a great victory against the British under Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey.  I spent a week camping and exploring the Valley Force grounds.  There’s lots to see and do there.


The US Naval Academy class of 1942 graduates six month early on this date in 1941 due to the nation’s entry into WWII.