FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 29th through 31st, 2017

Friends of FOD

There’s just a lot of stuff that needs to be mentioned in this edition.  Bear with me and enjoy.

First and 101st Indy 500

Congratulations to Takuma Sato for a great pass of three time winner Helio Castroneves in the closing laps of the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 to win by .2011 seconds.  He becomes the first Japanese driver to win at the ‘brickyard.’  If you watched the race you’ll recall a horrific wreck on lap 53 when Jay Howard’s car got up in the rubber pebbles coming out of turn two and hit the SAFER barrier on the outside of the turn.  He then came back across the track into the path of the pole-sitter Scott Dixon.  Dixon had nowhere to go and after impacting Howard’s car became airborne, hitting the catch fence hard, rolled airborne and came down right side up after losing most of his suspension components (actually these cars are designed to shed suspension parts so as to minimize the forces being generated on the car).  The accident caused a 19-minute red flag delay while debris was removed from the track and the catch fence repaired.  It’s a tribute to the car designers that neither driver was hurt.  And on May 30, 1911, Ray Harroun drives his single-seater Marmon Wasp to victory in the inaugural Indianapolis 500.  40 cars lined up at the starting line for the first Indy 500. A multi-car accident occurred 13 laps into the race, and the ensuing chaos temporarily disrupted scoring, throwing the finish into dispute when the eventual runner-up, Ralph Mulford, argued that he was the rightful winner. It was Ray Harroun, however, who took home the $14,250 purse, clocking an average speed of 74.59 mph and a total time of 6 hours and 42 minutes. The Wasp was the first car with a rear-view mirror, which Harroun had installed in order to compensate for not having a mechanic in the seat next to him to warn of other cars passing.

 

At Last – FONOPS in South China Sea

According to Navy Times, China protested a U.S. Navy patrol that sent a guided-missile destroyer near a group of man-made islands in the South China Sea on Thursday, in the first American challenge to Beijing’s claims to the waters since President Trump took office.  China’s Defense Ministry told reporters that it had sought an explanation with U.S. officials over the incident, which Beijing said involved the USS Dewey (DDG-105) (left) and took place around Mischief Reef, one of a chain of artificial islands China has built and fortified to assert its claims over the strategic waterway. While U.S. officials did not immediately comment on Thursday’s operation, Washington has in the past insisted that it has the right to conduct so-called freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPS, in the area because it is in international waters. The Navy conducted similar operations under former President Barack Obama, but had not done so since Trump took office and began talking up the prospect of warming ties with Beijing and cooperating over issues like North Korea. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the U.S. destroyer had “trespassed” near islands over which China has “indisputable sovereignty.” “We urge the U.S. to correct this mistake and stop taking further actions so as to avoid hurting peace and security in the region and long-term cooperation between the two countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said. As mentioned in previous editions of FOD, an international tribunal last year rejected most of China’s claims to the waters and said its land reclamation was aggravating tensions and violating the sovereignty of fellow claimant the Philippines. China has ignored the ruling. U.S. Defense Department spokesman Maj. Jamie Davis said in an emailed statement that U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region would continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations to “challenge excessive maritime claims in order to preserve the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law.” Davis gave no details of Thursday’s operation, saying summaries would only be released in an annual report and adding that U.S. forces conducted such operations last year to challenge claims by 22 coastal states, including allies and partners.  “U.S. forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” Davis said. And he added, “FONOPS are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.” Greg Poling of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank said that under international law, Mischief Reef was not entitled to a territorial sea as it was underwater at high tide before it was built up by China.

 

And Speaking of FONOPS – China Intercepts P-3

According to the South China Morning Post, and who doesn’t read this rag daily, The Chinese Defense Ministry on Sunday dismissed Washington’s account of an encounter between Chinese and US military aircraft over the South China Sea last week, blaming the US flight for posing a threat.  A statement by the ministry said a US surveillance plan was spotted in airspace southeast of Hong Kong on May 25, and Chinese military aircraft intercepted it in accordance with the law.  “The operation by the Chinese military aircraft was professional and safe,” the statement said. “Recently, the US has been sent military vessels and aircraft to China’s maritime and air space, infringing upon China’s territorial sovereignty and posing a threat to the lives of people from both sides.  “Such operations [by the US] is the root of Sino-US military maritime and air safety incidents.”  US officials said the US Navy P-3 Orion (above left) was 240 km southeast of Hong Kong in international airspace when two Chinese J-10 fighters (right) carried out the “unsafe intercept”.  One J-10 flew within 200m in front of the US plane, restricting its ability to maneuver, the Pentagon said on Friday.

 

 

China Invited to RIMPAC 2018

According to Defense News, Despite ongoing tensions in the South China Sea and several recent aerial confrontations, China has been invited to attend next year’s U.S.-hosted Rim of the Pacific exercises, the U.S. Navy confirmed Monday.  “All 26 nations that participated in RIMPAC 2016 have been invited to return for RIMPAC 2018,” Cmdr. Ryan Perry, a spokesman for the San Diego-based U.S. Third Fleet, said Monday in response to a query.  (USS Lincoln CV-76 Battle Group and ships of all participant nations above).  The Pentagon granted permission for China to be included among the participating nations invited to a June planning conference in San Diego, Ryan confirmed, following congressionally mandated guidelines governing military-to-military and naval-to-naval engagements with China. Further approvals will need to be obtained for two more planning conferences as the exercises approach, Ryan confirmed.  RIMPAC, is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise. RIMPAC is held biennially during June and July of even-numbered years from Honolulu, Hawaii. It is hosted and administered by the United States Navy‘s Pacific Fleet, headquartered at Pearl Harbor, in conjunction with the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, and Hawaii National Guard forces under the control of the Governor of Hawaii. The US invites military forces from the Pacific Rim and beyond to participate. With RIMPAC the United States Pacific Command seeks to enhance interoperability between Pacific Rim armed forces, ostensibly as a means of promoting stability in the region to the benefit of all participating nations. Described by the US Navy as a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.

 

The Good Cemeterian

One Florida man has taken it upon himself to help restore a Tampa graveyard and its veterans’ headstones.  Though he has never served in the military, Andrew Lumish, 46, spends his little free time scrubbing and cleaning soldiers’ gravestones — some dating back to the Civil War — in the L’Unione Italiana Cemetery.  Known as “The Good Cemeterian,” Lumish found the headstones while pursuing his passion for photography. He thought they were beautiful but was bothered by the amount of dirt, mold and mildew that had overtaken them. Some of the men buried there did not have families to take care of their gravesites, so he stepped in to provide a little elbow grease and honor the fallen veterans.  “I trained myself on proper techniques that we utilize in all of our national cemeteries to begin restoring these monuments,” Lumish, who has now cleaned more than 500 monuments, told NBC News.  Honored by the Department of Veteran Affairs for his efforts, Lumish coats the gravestone with the same product as those used by national cemeteries after soaking the monument with water. He then uses soft bristle brushes, a tooth brush and cotton swabs to scrub every detail of the stonework.  “The process will take one, two, three, four months total before restoration is complete,” Lumish said.  Lumish has no personal connection to these men who fell in various American wars, but he has spent the last five years attempting to return some honor and dignity to their graves. Along the way he has learned a considerable amount about the lives of those in the graveyard and often shares their stories.

Battle of Totopotomoy Creek

The Battle of Totopotomoy Creek also called the Battle of Bethesda Church, Crumps Creek, Shady Grove Road, and Hanovertown, was a battle fought in Hanover County, Virginia in May 28–30, 1864, as part of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses Grant‘s Overland Campaign against Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern VirginiaAs Grant continued his attempts to maneuver around Lee’s right flank and lure him into a general battle in the open, Lee saw an opportunity to attack the advancing V Corps, under Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren with the Second Corps of Lt. Gen. Jubal Early. Early’s divisions under Maj. Gens. Robert E. Rodes and Stephen Dodson Ramseur drove the Union troops back to Shady Grove Road, but Ramseur’s advance was stopped by a fierce stand of infantry and artillery fire. Grant ordered his other corps commanders to conduct a supporting attack along the entire Confederate line, which was entrenched behind Totopotomoy Creek, but only the II Corps of Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock crossed the stream; they were quickly repulsed. After the inconclusive battle, the Union army resumed its moves to the southeast and the Battle of Cold HarborThe Shelton House (below left) becomes the center of the battle and is the house where Patrick Henry was married.  Grant’s forces are now less than twenty miles from the Confederate capital of Richmond.  Federal casualties were 731 (679 killed and wounded, 52 captured), versus 1,593 (263 killed, 961 wounded, 369 missing/captured) Confederate.  Of more concern to Lee than Early’s failed attack was intelligence he received that reinforcements were heading Grant’s way. Just as Hoke’s division was leaving Bermuda Hundred, the 16,000 men of Maj. Gen. William F. “Baldy” Smith‘s XVIII Corps were withdrawn from Butler’s Army of the James at Grant’s request and they were moving down the James River and up the York to the Pamunkey. If Smith moved due west from White House Landing to Cold Harbor, 3 miles southeast of Bethesda Church and Grant’s left flank, the extended Federal line would be too far south for the Confederate right to contain it. Lee sent his cavalry under Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee to secure the crossroads at Cold Harbor.  On May 31 Hancock’s II Corps again crossed Totopotomoy Creek, but found that the Confederate defense line stood well behind the actual creek bed. Grant realized that the strength of the Confederate position meant another stalemate was at hand. He began shifting his army southward toward Cold Harbor on the night of May 31, the site of the next major battle.

 

The Rite of Spring Opens in Paris with a Near Riot

Granted, I’m not much of a student of the ballet as it were, but if The Rite of Spring comes to a theater near you, I recommend you go see it, just to see what all the mayhem was about in 1913.   The Rite of Spring (French: Le Sacre du printemps; “sacred spring”) is a ballet and orchestral concert work by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (below right). It was written for the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes company.  Stravinsky’s score contains many novel features for its time, including experiments in tonalitymetre, rhythm, stress and  dissonance. Analysts, (not me) have noted in the score a significant grounding in Russian folk music, a relationship Stravinsky tended to deny. The music has influenced many of the 20th-century’s leading composers and is one of the most recorded works in the classical repertoire.  From the first notes of the overture, sounded by a bassoon playing well outside its normal register, Stravinsky’s haunting music set the audience on edge. It was the combination of that music with the jarring choreography of the great Vaslav Nijinsky, however, that caused the uproar that followed. “The curtain rose on a group of knock-kneed and long-braided Lolitas jumping up and down,” Stravinsky later remarked of the brutal opening seen of Le Sacre du printemps, which depicts a virgin sacrifice in an ancient pagan Russia. Catcalls began to issue from the audience as they took in the bizarre scene playing out before them. The noise became great enough that the orchestra could not be heard from the stage, causing Nijinsky to climb atop a chair in the wings shouting out instructions to his dancers onstage. While Stravinsky sat fuming as his music was drowned out by jeers, whistles and—if one witness is to be believed—members of the audience barking like dogs, Serge Diaghelev, impresario of the Ballets Russes, frantically switched the house lights on and off in a futile effort to restore order. It was, in other words a scene that bore a closer resemblance to the Marx Brothers’ A Night At The Opera than it did to a typical night at the Ballets Russes.  In retrospect, Stravinsky’s score can be seen as paving the way for 20th-century modern composition, and it sounds no more daring to today’s listeners than the average dramatic film scores. Yet no present-day listener—and certainly no listener who first encountered it as part of the soundtrack to Disney’s animated Fantasia (1940)—can possibly appreciate how shocking the dissonance, droning and asymmetrical rhythms of Le Sacre du printemps sounded to its premiere audience on this night in 1913.

 

Because It Was There

On 29 May 1953, Edmund Hillary  (right) and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. They were part of the ninth British expedition to Everest, led by John HuntTIME magazine named Hillary one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Hillary served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a navigator during World War II. Prior to the 1953 Everest expedition, Hillary had been part of the British reconnaissance expedition to the mountain in 1951 as well as an unsuccessful attempt to climb Cho Oyu in 1952. The expedition set up base camp in March 1953 and, working slowly, set up its final camp at the South Col at 25,900 feet (7,890 m). On 26 May, Bourdillon and Evans attempted the climb but turned back when Evans’ oxygen system failed. The pair had reached the South Summit, coming within 300 vertical feet (91 m) of the summit.  Hunt then directed Hillary and Tenzing to go for the summit.  Snow and wind held the pair up at the South Col for two days. They set out on 28 May with a support trio of Lowe, Alfred Gregory, and Ang Nyima. The two pitched a tent at 27,900 feet on 28 May, while their support group returned down the mountain. On the following morning Hillary discovered that his boots had frozen solid outside the tent (What – Who leaves their boots outside on a Mt. Everest climb? What are you new here?  OK, he was new here, but no excuse) He spent two hours warming them before he and Tenzing, wearing 30-pound packs, attempted the final ascent.  The crucial move of the last part of the ascent was the 40-foot rock face later named the “Hillary Step“. Hillary saw a means to wedge his way up a crack in the face between the rock wall and the ice, and Tenzing followed.  From there the following effort was relatively simple. Hillary reported that both men reached the summit at the same time, but in The Dream Comes True, Tenzing said that Hillary had taken the first step atop Mount Everest. They reached Everest’s 29,028 ft summit, the highest point on earth, at 11:30 AM.  As Hillary put it, “A few more whacks of the ice axe in the firm snow, and we stood on top.” As part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition Hillary reached the South Pole overland in 1958. He subsequently reached the North Pole, making him the first person to reach both poles and summit Everest.  Following his ascent of Everest, Hillary devoted most of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he founded. Through his efforts, many schools and hospitals were built in Nepal.  On 6 June 1953 Hillary was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire and received the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal the same year.  To mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Everest the Nepalese government conferred honorary citizenship upon Hillary at a special Golden Jubilee celebration in Kathmandu, Nepal. He was the first foreign national to receive that honor.  In 1992 Hillary appeared on the updated New Zealand $5 note, thus making him the only New Zealander to appear on a banknote during his or her lifetime, in defiance of the established convention for banknotes of using only depictions of deceased individuals, and current heads of state.

 

Big Ben Strikes

Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London and is usually extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower as well.  The tower is officially known as Elizabeth Tower, renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012; previously, it was known simply as the Clock Tower.  When completed in 1859, it was, says clockmaker Ian Westworth, “the prince of timekeepers: the biggest, most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world.”   The tower had its 150th anniversary on 31 May 2009, during which celebratory events took place.  A British cultural icon, the tower is one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom and is often in the establishing shot of films set in London.  The Elizabeth Tower was raised as a part of Charles Barry‘s design for a new palace, after the old Palace of Westminster was largely destroyed by fire on the night of 16 October 1834.  The new parliament was built in a neo-gothic style. Although Barry was the chief architect of the palace, he turned to Augustus Pugin for the design of the clock tower, which resembles earlier Pugin designs, including one for Scarisbrick Hall in Lancashire. The design for the tower was Pugin’s last design before his final descent into madness and death, and Pugin himself wrote, at the time of Barry’s last visit to him to collect the drawings: “I never worked so hard in my life for Mr. Barry for tomorrow I render all the designs for finishing his bell tower & it is beautiful.”  The tower is designed in Pugin’s celebrated Gothic Revival style, and is 315 feet high.  Despite being one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, the interior of the tower is not open to overseas visitors, though United Kingdom residents are able to arrange tours (well in advance) through their Member of Parliament.  However, the tower currently has no lift, though one is planned, so those escorted must climb the 334 limestone stairs to the top.  The clock and dials were designed by Augustus Pugin. The clock dials are set in an iron frame 23 feet in diameter, supporting 312 pieces of opal glass, rather like a stained-glass window. Some of the glass pieces may be removed for inspection of the hands. The surround of the dials is gilded. At the base of each clock dial in gilt letters is the Latin inscription:

DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM

Which means O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.

Unlike most other Roman numeral clock dials, which show the ‘4’ position as ‘IV’, the Great Clock faces depict ‘4’ as ‘IIII’. The clock’s movement is famous for its reliability. The designers were the lawyer and amateur horologist Edmund Beckett Denison, and George Airy, the Astronomer Royal. Construction was entrusted to clockmaker Edward John Dent; after his death in 1853 his stepson Frederick Dent completed the work, in 1854.  As the tower was not complete until 1859, Denison had time to experiment: instead of using the deadbeat escapement and remontoire as originally designed, Denison invented the double three-legged gravity escapement. This escapement provides the best separation between pendulum and clock mechanism. The pendulum is installed within an enclosed windproof box beneath the clockroom. It is 13 feet long, weighs 660 pounds, suspended on a strip of spring steel 1/64 inch in thickness, and beats every 2 seconds. The clockwork mechanism in a room below weighs 5 tons. On top of the pendulum is a small stack of old penny coins; these are to adjust the time of the clock. Adding a coin has the effect of minutely lifting the position of the pendulum’s centre of mass, reducing the effective length of the pendulum rod and hence increasing the rate at which the pendulum swings. Adding or removing a penny will change the clock’s speed by 0.4 seconds per day.  On 10 May 1941, a German bombing raid damaged two of the clock’s dials and sections of the tower’s stepped roof and destroyed the House of Commons chamber. Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed a new five-floor block. Two floors are occupied by the current chamber, which was used for the first time on 26 October 1950. The clock ran accurately and chimed throughout the Blitz.  The main bell, officially known as the Great Bell but better known as Big Ben, is the largest bell in the tower and part of the Great Clock of Westminster.

Great Bell

Along with the Great Bell, the belfry houses four quarter bells which play the Westminster Quarters on the quarter hours. The four quarter bells sound G♯, F♯, E, and B. They were cast by John Warner & Sons at their Crescent Foundry in 1857 (G♯, F♯ and B) and 1858 (E). The Foundry was in Jewin Crescent, in what is now known as The Barbican, in the City of London.  The bells are sounded by hammers pulled by cables coming from the link room—a low-ceiling space between the clock room and the belfry—where mechanisms translate the movement of the quarter train into the sounding of the individual bells.  The Elizabeth Tower and Great Bell have been scheduled for a major renovation which is expected to last three years and is due to begin in early 2017. Essential maintenance will be carried out on the clock mechanism, which will be stopped for several months during which there will be no chimes. Striking and tolling will however be maintained for important events.  The aim of the renovation is to repair and conserve the tower, upgrade facilities as necessary, and to ensure its integrity for future generations. The last significant renovation work was carried out to the tower over 30 years ago in 1983-85. The most significant addition to the tower in the forthcoming works will be the addition of a lift.

 

F4U Corsair First Flight

29 May 1940: Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division test pilot Lyman A. Bullard, Jr. took the U.S. Navy’s new prototype fighter, the Vought XF4U-1 Corsair, Bu. No. 1443, for its first flight at the Bridgeport Municipal Airport, Bridgeport, Connecticut. Designed by Rex B. Beisel, this would be developed into the famous F4U Corsair certainly one of the most iconic and beautiful aircraft ever built.  The size of the propeller was responsible for the Corsair’s most distinctive feature: the inverted gull wing. The width of the wing (chord) limited the length of the main landing gear struts. By placing the gear at the bend, the necessary propeller clearance was gained. The angle at which the wing met the fuselage was also aerodynamically cleaner.Demand for the aircraft soon overwhelmed Vought‘s manufacturing capability, resulting in production by Goodyear and Brewster: Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG and Brewster-built aircraft F3A. From the first prototype delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured, in 16 separate models, in the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in U.S. history (1942–53).  The Corsair was designed as a carrier-based aircraft but its difficult carrier landing performance rendered it unsuitable for Navy use until the carrier landing issues were overcome by the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. The Corsair thus came to and retained prominence in its area of greatest deployment: land based use by the U.S. Marines.  The role of the dominant U.S. carrier based fighter in the second part of the war was thus filled by the Grumman F6F Hellcat, powered by the same Double Wasp engine first flown on the Corsair’s first prototype in 1940.  The Corsair served to a lesser degree in the U.S. Navy. In addition to its use by the U.S. and British, the Corsair was also used by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the French Navy Aéronavale and other, smaller, air forces until the 1960s. After the carrier landing issues had been tackled, it quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II.  The Corsair served almost exclusively as a fighter-bomber throughout the Korean War and during the French colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria.  Production F4U-1s featured several major modifications compared with the XF4U-1. A change of armament to six wing-mounted .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns (three in each outer wing panel) and their ammunition (400 rounds for the inner pair, 375 rounds for the outer), meant that the location of the wing fuel tanks had to be changed. In order to keep the fuel tank close to the center of gravity, the only available position was in the forward fuselage, ahead of the cockpit. Accordingly, as a 237 gal (897 l) self-sealing fuel tank replaced the fuselage mounted armament, the cockpit had to be moved back by 32 in (810 mm) and the fuselage lengthened.  In addition, 150 lb of armor plate was installed, along with a 1.5 in (38 mm) bullet-proof windscreen which was set internally, behind the curved Plexiglas windscreen. The canopy could be jettisoned in an emergency, and half-elliptical planform transparent panels, much like those of certain models of the Curtiss P-40, were inset into the sides of the fuselage’s turtledeck structure behind the pilot’s headrest, providing the pilot with a limited rear view over his shoulders. A rectangular Plexiglas panel was inset into the lower center section to allow the pilot to see directly beneath the aircraft and assist with deck landings.  The engine used was the more powerful R-2800-8 (B series) Double Wasp which produced 2,000 hp.  On the wings the flaps were changed to a NACA slotted type and the ailerons were increased in span to increase the roll rate, with a consequent reduction in flap span. IFF transponder equipment was fitted in the rear fuselage. These changes increased the Corsair’s weight by several hundred pounds.  The performance of the Corsair was superior to most of its contemporaries. The F4U-1 was considerably faster than the Grumman F6F Hellcat and only 13 mph slower than the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.  All three were powered by the R-2800.  From February 1943 onward, the F4U operated from Guadalcanal and ultimately other bases in the Solomon Islands. A dozen USMC F4U-1s of VMF-124, commanded by Major William E. Gise, arrived at Henderson Field (code name “Cactus”) on 12 February 1943. The first recorded combat engagement was on 14 February 1943, when Corsairs of VMF-124 under Major Gise assisted P-40s and P-38s in escorting a formation of Consolidated B-24 Liberators on a raid against a Japanese aerodrome at Kahili.  Corsairs were flown by the “Black Sheep” Squadron (VMF-214, led by Marine Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington) in an area of the Solomon Islands called “The Slot“. Boyington was credited with 22 kills in F4Us (of 28 total, including six in an AVG P-40, although his score with the AVG has been disputed).  Other noted Corsair pilots of the period included VMF-124’s Kenneth Walsh, James E. Swett, and Archie DonahueVMF-215‘s Robert M. Hanson and Don Aldrich, and VF-17‘s Tommy BlackburnRoger Hedrick, and Ira Kepford.  Nightfighter versions equipped Navy and Marine units afloat and ashore. One particularly unusual kill was scored by Marine Lieutenant R. R. Klingman of VMF-312 (the “Checkerboards”), over Okinawa. Klingman was in pursuit of a Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu (“Nick”) twin-engine fighter at extremely high altitude when his guns jammed due to the gun lubrication thickening from the extreme cold. He flew up and chopped off the Ki-45’s tail with the big propeller of the Corsair. Despite missing five inches off the end of his propeller blades, he managed to land safely after this aerial ramming attack. He was awarded the Navy CrossU.S. figures compiled at the end of the war indicate that the F4U and FG flew 64,051 operational sorties for the U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy through the conflict (44% of total fighter sorties), with only 9,581 sorties (15%) flown from carrier decks.  F4U and FG pilots claimed 2,140 air combat victories against 189 losses to enemy aircraft, for an overall kill ratio of over 11:1.  Against the best Japanese opponents, the aircraft claimed a 12:1 kill ratio against Mitsubishi A6M and 6:1 against the Nakajima Ki-84Kawanishi N1K-J and Mitsubishi J2M combined during the last year of the war.  The Corsair bore the brunt of U.S. fighter-bomber missions, delivering 15,621 short tons (14,171 metric tons) of bombs during the war (70% of total bombs dropped by U.S. fighters during the war).

 

Take Your Daughter to Work Day

29 May 1963: Lockheed Test Pilot Anthony M. “Tony” LeVier and his 18-year-old daughter, Toni Ann LeVier, flew the TF-104G Starfighter company demonstrator, FAA registration N104L, from Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. They made fuel stops at Kirkland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio.  This is the same aircraft in which Jackie Cochran set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed record of 1,203.94 miles per hour over a 100 kilometer closed circuit on 1 May 1963, and 1,273.12 miles per hour (2,048.88 kilometers per hour) over a 15/25 kilometer course, 12 April 1963.

 

 

DC-8 First Flight 

30 May 1958: Douglas Aircraft Company Flight Operations Manager and engineering test pilot Arnold G. Heimerdinger, with co-pilot William M. Magruder and systems engineer Paul H. Patten, were scheduled to take off from Long Beach Airport (LGB) on the coast of southern California, at 10:00 a.m., to make the first flight of the new Douglas DC-8 jet airliner, c/n 45252, FAA registration N8008D.  The DC-8 (also known as the McDonnell Douglas DC-8) is a four-engine long-range narrow-body jet airliner built from 1958 to 1972 by the Douglas Aircraft Company. Launched after the competing Boeing 707, the DC-8 nevertheless kept Douglas in a strong position in the airliner market, and remained in production until 1972 when it began to be superseded by larger wide-body designs, including the Boeing 747McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. The DC-8’s design allowed it a slightly larger cargo capacity than the 707 and some re-engined DC-8s are still in use as freighters.  Donald Douglas proposed to build and test the DC-8 at Santa Monica Airport, which had been the birthplace of the DC-3 and home to a Douglas plant that employed 44,000 workers during World War II. In order to accommodate the new jet, Douglas asked the city of Santa Monica, California to lengthen the airport’s 5,000-foot runway. Following complaints by neighboring residents, the city refused, so Douglas moved its airliner production line to Long Beach AirportThe first DC-8 N8008D was rolled out of the new Long Beach factory on 9 April 1958 and flew for the first time, in Series 10 form, on 30 May for two hours seven minutes.  Later that year an enlarged version of the Comet finally returned to service, but too late to take a substantial portion of the market: de Havilland had just 25 orders. In August Boeing had begun delivering 707s to Pan Am. Douglas made a massive effort to close the gap with Boeing, using no less than ten aircraft for flight testing to achieve FAA certification for the first of the many DC-8 variants in August 1959. Much was needed to be done: the original air brakes on the lower rear fuselage were found ineffective and were deleted as engine thrust reversers had become available; unique leading-edge slots were added to improve low-speed lift; the prototype was 25 kt short of its promised cruising speed and a new, slightly larger wingtip had to be developed to reduce drag. In addition, a recontoured wing leading edge was later developed to extend the chord 4% and reduce drag at high Mach numbers.  On August 21, 1961, a Douglas DC-8 broke the sound barrier at Mach 1.012 (660 mph/1,062 km/h) while in a controlled dive through 41,000 feet (12,497 m) and maintained that speed for 16 seconds. The flight was to collect data on a new leading-edge design for the wing, and while doing so, the DC-8 became the first civilian jet – and the first jet airliner – to make a supersonic flight.  The aircraft was DC-8-43 registered CF-CPG later delivered to Canadian Pacific Air Lines. The aircraft, crewed by Captain William Magruder, First Officer Paul Patten, Flight Engineer Joseph Tomich and Flight Test Engineer Richard Edwards, took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California, and was accompanied to altitude by an F-104 Starfighter supersonic chase aircraft flown by Chuck Yeager.

 

Fly Martin-Baker

30 May 1949: While testing a radical “flying wing” aircraft, the Rolls-Royce Nene-powered Armstrong Whitworth AW.52, (below left) test pilot John O. Lancaster, DFC, encountered severe pitch oscillations in a 320 mile per hour (515 kilometer per hour) dive. Lancaster feared the aircraft would disintegrate.  In the very first use of the Martin-Baker Mk1 ejection seat in an actual emergency, Lancaster fired the seat and was safely thrown clear of the aircraft. He parachuted to safety and was uninjured. The aircraft was destroyed.  To date, more than 7,300 airmen have been saved worldwide by Martin Baker ejection seats. I’m a two-time survivor and attribute Martin-Baker for saving the butt I’m sitting on today.

 

B-17F Flying Fortress First Flight 

30 May 1942: The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress makes its first flight. B-17F-1-BO 41-24340 was the first of a new series of the famous World War II bomber. While visually similar to the B-17E, it had more than 400 improvements based on early wartime experience with the B-17D and B-17E.  The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 9 inches (22.784 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9-3/8 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1 inch (5.187 meters). Its empty weight was 34,000 pounds (15,422 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) loaded, and the maximum takeoff weight was 56,500 pounds (25,628 kilograms).  The B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry outperformed both competitors and exceeded the air corps’ performance specifications. Although Boeing lost the contract because the prototype crashed, the air corps ordered 13 more B-17s for further evaluation. From its introduction in 1938, the B-17 Flying Fortress evolved through numerous design advances.  The B-17F variants were the primary versions flying for the Eighth Air Force to face the Germans in 1943, and had standardized the manned Sperry ball turret for ventral defense, replacing the earlier, ten-panel well-framed bombardier’s nose glazing from the B subtype with an enlarged, nearly frameless Plexiglas bombardier’s nose enclosure for improved forward vision.  The air corps (renamed United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941), using the B-17 and other bombers, bombed from high altitudes using the then-secret Norden bombsight, known as the “Blue Ox,” which was an optical electro-mechanical gyro-stabilized analog computer.  The device was able to determine, from variables input by the bombardier, the point at which the aircraft’s bombs should be released to hit the target. The bombardier essentially took over flight control of the aircraft during the bomb run, maintaining a level altitude during the final moments before release.  My Dad, Lloyd R. Hayes was in the Eighth Air Force during WW II and also worked for International Business Machines installing Norden Bombsight Trainers at various USAAF facilities around the US during WW II, including one at what is now Fairchild AFB.  Thanks Dad.  Before the advent of long-range fighter escorts, B-17s had only their .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns to rely on for defense during the bombing runs over Europe. As the war intensified, Boeing used feedback from aircrews to improve each new variant with increased armament and armor.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO “Memphis Belle” in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The number of defensive guns increased from four 0.50 in machine guns and one 0.30 in nose machine gun in the B-17C, to thirteen 0.50 in machine guns in the B-17G. But because the bombers could not maneuver when attacked by fighters, and needed to be flown straight and level during their final bomb run, individual aircraft struggled to fend off a direct attack.  A 1943 survey by the USAAF found that over half the bombers shot down by the Germans had left the protection of the main formation.  To address this problem, the United States developed the bomb-group formation, which evolved into the staggered combat box formation where all the B-17s could safely cover any others in their formation with their machine guns, making a formation of the bombers a dangerous target to engage by enemy fighters.  Luftwaffe fighter pilots likened attacking a B-17 combat box formation to encountering a fliegendes Stachelschwein, “flying porcupine”, with dozens of machine guns on a combat box formation of bombers, aimed at them from almost every direction. However, the use of this rigid formation meant that individual aircraft could not engage in evasive maneuvers: they had to fly constantly in a straight line, which made them vulnerable to the German flak. Moreover, German fighter aircraft later used the tactic of high-speed strafing passes rather than engaging with individual aircraft to inflict damage with minimum risk.  As a result, the B-17s’ loss rate was up to 25% on some early missions (60 of 291 B-17s were lost in combat on the second Raid on Schweinfurt) (photo above left – hard to see, but every little spot is a B-17), and it was not until the advent of long-range fighter escorts (particularly the North American P-51 Mustang) resulting in the degradation of the Luftwaffe as an effective interceptor force between February and June 1944, that the B-17 became strategically potent.  The B-17 was noted for its ability to absorb battle damage, still reach its target and bring its crew home safely. Wally Hoffman, a B-17 pilot with the Eighth Air Force during World War II, said, “The plane can be cut and slashed almost to pieces by enemy fire and bring its crew home.  Martin Caidin reported one instance in which a B-17 suffered a midair collision with a Focke-Wulf Fw 190, losing an engine and suffering serious damage to both the starboard horizontal stabilizer and the vertical stabilizer, and being knocked out of formation by the impact. The B-17 was reported as shot down by observers, but it survived and brought its crew home without injury.

Boeing B-17F-5-BO (S/N 41-24406) “All American III” of the 97th Bomb Group, 414th Bomb Squadron, in flight after a collision with an Me-109. The aircraft was able to land safely. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Its toughness was compensation for its shorter range and lighter bomb load compared to the B-24 and British Avro Lancaster heavy bombers.  Stories circulated B-17s returning to base with tails shredded, engines destroyed and large portions of their wings destroyed by flak.  This durability, together with the large operational numbers in the Eighth Air Force and the fame achieved by the Memphis Belle, made the B-17 a key bomber aircraft of the war. Other factors such as combat effectiveness and political issues also contributed to the B-17’s success.  The B-17 Flying Fortress first flew in 1935, and was in production from 1937 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The Manufacturer Codes, -BO, -DL and -VE, follow the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.  Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses remain in existence and one of them can be seen at The Museum of Flight at Seattle’s Boeing Field.

 

Wilbur Wright Remembered

30 May 1912: Wilbur Wright, co-inventor with his brother Orville of the Wright Flyer, the first powered, controllable, heavier-than-air vehicle, died at the family home in Dayton, Ohio, of typhoid fever. 

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 17th and 18th, 2017

Fireball to Become Jeter’s Angel

The group led by Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush to purchase the Miami Marlins for an estimated $1.3 billion have lost an investor.  Bloomberg reported today that an investor who had been in talks to contribute $150 million to the $1.3 billion bid was unable to reconcile the terms of his investment.  When news of their accepted bid was first reported last month, it was said the ownership group included at least five investors. I have decided to step up to the plate and bail Jeter and Jeb out of their predicament.  I have communicated my offer of $1000.00 to make the deal go through.  And while I’ll share it with only Friends of FOD; because Jeter’s number 2 was just retired, I’m willing to go as high as $222.22 over that $1000.00 offer.  I’m only asking for 2.22% ownership, plus two seats in a really good box forever and I’ll also generously agree to be the bat guy when the Yankees come to town.  I’m expecting a reply very soon.  So I’m keeping my phone next to me all night, because I know these kinds of deals require personal involvement to make them happen.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 17th and 18th, 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day January 27-28 2017

Well, we’re in the “Dark Ages.”  Only the Super Bowl to be played next weekend and no baseball games to talk about, although there are some baseball stories out there.  However there is light.  Remember these dates:  February 14th  – Pitchers and Catchers Report for Spring Training; February 17th  – Position Players Report for Spring Training; February 24th  – Catus and Grapefruit League games begin.  And then April 2nd – Baseball season begins.  The Yankees open in Tampa against the Rays.  The Yankee Stadium opener is not until April 10th, also against the Rays.  And May 14th is Derek Jeter Night where his number 2 will officially be retired.  I’m going to that game.  See you there!

 

January 27 was the day to give some a crap and celebrate Thomas Crapper Day.  He is credited as the inventor of the flush toilet.  Crapper was a shrewd businessman, salesman and self-publicist (he didn’t have a blog however).  He held many patents and helped modernize indoor plumbing and his company Thomas Crapper & Co. Ltd. Is still producing reproductions of his original designs.

 

 

 

On January 27, 1973, the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong formally sign the “Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace to Vietnam” in Paris.  The settlement established a cease-fire throughout Vietnam.  Both sides agreed to withdraw forces from Laos and Cambodia.  Most importantly the agreement set a timetable for withdrawal of US forces and advisors within 60 days and in return North Vietnam agreed to release all US and other prisoners of war.   Vice Admiral James Stockdale is shown here climbing down from his A-4 (right) and accepting the Medal of Honor from President Gerald Ford (below).  591 American prisoners of war (POWs) were returned during Operation Homecoming.    The U.S. listed about 1,350 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action and roughly 1,200 Americans reported killed in action and body not recovered. Many of these were Airmen who were shot down over North Vietnam or Laos.

050706-N-0000X-002
Navy File Photo: Washington, D.C. (March 4, 1976) – President of the United States of America, Gerald R. Ford, (back to camera) presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to Rear Admiral James B. Stockdale, USN, during an awards ceremony in the East Room of the White House. Rear Admiral Stockdale earned the nation’s highest decoration for his leadership as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from 9 Sept. 1965 to 12 Feb. 1973. U.S. Navy Photo by Dave Wilson (RELEASED)

Investigations of these incidents have involved determining whether the men involved survived their shoot down; if they did not survive, then they considered efforts to recover their remains. POW/MIA activists played a role in pushing the U.S. government to improve its efforts in resolving the fates of the missing. Progress in doing so was slow until the mid-1980s, when relations between the U.S. and Vietnam began to improve and more cooperative efforts were undertaken. Normalization of U.S. relations with Vietnam in the mid-1990s was a culmination of this process.  The United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs of 1991–1993 led by Senators John KerryBob Smith, and John McCain. It found “no compelling evidence that proves that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia.”

 

Also on January 27 in 1888, the National Geographic Society was founded in Washington, D.C. to “increase the diffusion of geographic knowledge.”  And of course that makes January 27th, National Geographic Day. The thirty three original founders were a diverse group of explorers, teachers, geographers, cartographers, military officers, lawyers and financiers.  All shared an interest in scientific knowledge and were of the opinion Americans were becoming more interested in the natural world around them.  They drafted a constitution and elected their first president, a lawyer and philanthropist Gardiner Greene Hubbard (pictured left).  Hubbard was not a scientist but represented the Society’s desire to reach out to the layman.  Nine months after its inception, the Society published its first issue of National Geographic magazine. The NGS second president was  Alexander Graham Bell, scientist, inventor (pictured below).  Readership of the magazine did not grow, however, until Gilbert H. Grosvenor took over as editor in 1899. In only a few years, Grosvenor boosted circulation from 1,000 to 2 million by discarding the magazine’s format of short, overly technical articles for articles of general interest accompanied by photographs. National Geographic quickly became known for its stunning and pioneering photography, being the first to print natural-color photos of sky, sea and the North and South Poles.  Today, the Society is one of the world’s largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions and the magazine has a circulation in excess of 9 million.  The NGS periodically awards two awards, The Hubbard Medal and the Alexander Graham Bell Medal.  The Hubbard Medal is awarded by the National Geographic Society for distinction in exploration, discovery, and research. The medal is named for Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the first National Geographic Society president.   The Hubbard Medal has been presented 35 times as of 2010, the most recent award going to Don Walsh (see FOD January 23, 2017).  And of course they have the National Geographic Channel founded in 1997.

 

27 January 1939: First Lieutenant Benjamin Scovill Kelsey, United States Army Air Corps, made the first flight of the prototype Lockheed XP-38 Lightning, serial number 37-457, at March Field, Riverside County, California.  Certainly one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built. It was designed by an engineering team led by Hall L. Hibbard, which included the legendary Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson.  The XP-38 was a single-place, twin-engine fighter designed for very high speed and long range.  Testing continued with thirteen YP-38A pre-production aircraft and was quickly placed in full production.
The P-38 Lightning was one of the most successful combat aircraft of World War II. By the end of the war, Lockheed had built 10,037 Lightnings.  It was powered by two Allison V-1710-33 liquid-cooled, supercharged SOHC 60° V-12 engines (one left turning and one right turning).  Each weighed 1340 pounds and produced 1040 horsepower at 2800 rpm.  During WW II this engine cost $19,000.

 

In WW II, the 8th Air Force dispatched 64 B-17 Flying Fortresses from their bases at   High Wycombe, England, on January 27, 1943.   53 reached their targets in Germany and they shot down 22 German planes while losing 3 bombers.  And thus began the sustained long-range bombing effort in what became the first attempt at precision bombing efforts.  The B-17 developed a reputation as an effective bomber, using the then-secret Norden bombsight, known as the “Blue Ox” an optical electro-mechanical gyro-stabilized analog computer dropping more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II.  These were tough aircraft as you can see below.

Boeing B-17F-5-BO (S/N 41-24406) “All American III” of the 97th Bomb Group, 414th Bomb Squadron, in flight after a collision with an Me-109. The aircraft was able to land safely. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Of the 1.5 million tons of bombs dropped on Germany and its occupied territories by U.S. aircraft, 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s.  B-17s were built at Boeing Plant 2 in Seattle and also by Lockheed Vega, Burbank, CA (B-17G-VE 2250 aircraft) and by Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, CA (B-17G-DL 2395 aircraft).  12,731 aircraft were produced. My Dad, Lloyd R. Hayes served in the 8th Air Force during WW II and later on during the war installed Norden Bombsight Trainers for IBM, including ones at what is now Fairchild AFB, Spokane WA .

 

And sadly, on 27 January 1967: During a “plugs out” test of the Apollo 1 capsule, two weeks ahead of the scheduled launch of the AS-204 Saturn 1B—the first manned Apollo Program space flight—a fire broke out in the pressurized pure oxygen environment and very quickly involved the entire interior.  The pressure rapidly built to 29 pounds per square inch (200 kPa) and 17 seconds later, at 23:31:19 UTC, the capsule ruptured.  The three astronauts inside, Lieutenant Colonel Virgil I. Grissom, United States Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. White II, United States Air Force, and Lieutenant Commander Roger B. Chaffee, United States Navy, were killed.  The NASA accident investigation summary is available at https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4029/Apollo_01a_Summary.htm.  This post accident investigation led to many improvements in the Apollo program and more control by the astronaut corps over their capsule and other hardware.

 

 

Another one of those days when we’ll each recall where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news of January 28, 1986 – the Space Shuttle Challenger is gone.  I was just returning from a great flight in the F-14 with VF-21, against several Top Gun adversaries, when I learned the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger (OV-099) (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members, which included five NASA astronauts and two Payload Specialists. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape CanaveralFlorida, at 11:39 EST (16:39 UTC). Disintegration of the vehicle began after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The O-ring was not designed to fly under unusually cold conditions as in this launch. Its failure caused a breach in the SRB joint it sealed, (shown right just at launch) allowing pressurized burning gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB aft field joint attachment hardware and external fuel tank.  (Pictured below).  This led to the separation of the right-hand SRB’s aft field joint attachment and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces broke up the orbiter.  Approximately 17 percent of Americans witnessed the launch live because of the presence of Payload Specialist Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher in space. Media coverage of the accident was extensive: one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident.  The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program and the formation of the Rogers Commission, a special commission appointed by President Ronald Reagan to investigate the accident. The Rogers Commission found NASA’s organizational culture and decision-making processes had been key contributing factors to the accident, with the agency violating its own safety rules. NASA managers had known since 1977 that contractor Morton Thiokol‘s design of the SRBs contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings, but they had failed to address this problem properly. NASA managers also disregarded warnings (an example of “go fever“) from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that morning, and failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors.  The Challenger accident is frequently used as a case study evaluating engineering safety, the ethics of whistle-blowing, communications, group decision-making, and the dangers of groupthink.

 

And for you Packer fans still hurting from the NFC Championship game, on 28 January 1959, the Green Bay Packers signed Vince Lombardi to a five year contract.  (Lombardi pictured left with Bart Starr, QB for Green Bay).  Lombardi is best known for his coaching accomplishments during the 1960’s when he lead the Packers to three straight and five total NFL Championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.  The NFL’s Super Bowl trophy is named in his honor.  He was the right guard in the Seven Blocks of Granite, at  Fordham University, in 1936 and was later an assistant coach at the US Military Academy.  In fact when Army lost its coach after the 1962 season, President John F. Kennedy, a Navy fan to be sure, asked Lombardi if he would accept a position as Army’s head coach because he wanted to ensure Army had a good coach moving forward – Lombardi declined.