FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day August 28 through 31, 2017


Marines and Navy Heading to Gulf Coast For Possible Disaster Relief

In the wake of the ever increasing destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, the Marine Times is reporting, nearly 700 Marines will head toward the Gulf Coast Thursday aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge in case they are tasked with helping rescue Texas residents who have been slammed by historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.  The Kearsarge and the dock landing ship Oak Hill are both scheduled to get underway from ports in Virginia, Fleet Forces Command announced on Wednesday.  “These ships are capable of providing medical support, maritime civil affairs, maritime security, expeditionary logistic support, medium and heavy lift air support, and bring a diverse capability including assessment and security,” a news release from the command says. The Marines will also be able to purify water, distribute relief supplies, conduct aerial reconnaissance and provide engineering capabilities, a II MEF news release says.  “Marines conduct regular training and have gained real-world experience with Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief from relief efforts across the globe,” the news release says.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day August 28 through 31, 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day January 13, 2017

Happy Friday the 13th.  If you have a fear of the number 13, then you suffer from what scientifically has been called: “triskaidekaphobia“; and using this analogy, fear of Friday the 13th is paraskevidekatriaphobia,


A Chinese H-6 strategic bomber flew around the Spratly Islands over the weekend in a new show of force in the contested South China Sea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.  It was the second such flight by a Chinese bomber in the South China Sea this year. The first was on Jan. 1, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters/File Photo

The flight could be seen as a show of “strategic force” by the Chinese, the official said.  It comes after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has signaled a tougher approach to China when he takes office on Jan. 20, with tweets criticizing Beijing for its trade practices and accusing it of failing to help rein in nuclear-armed North Korea.  Just yesterday, during his confirmation hearing, Rex Tillerson, President-elect Trump’s choice for Secretary of State indicated a strategy to “block” China’s access to those islands might be in order.  Today, China stated such a strategy would require the US to “wage war,” if such a policy were to be adopted.


11 January 1944: Major James Howell Howard, United States Army Air Corps, commander of the 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group, Eighth Air Force, led fifty P-51 Mustangs escorting three divisions of B-17 Flying Fortresses on a raid against Oschersleben, near Berlin, Germany.  As defending Luftwaffe fighters attacked the bomber formation, Major Howard immediately went on the offensive and shot down a twin engine Messerschmitt Bf 110 Zerstörer long range fighter. During this engagement, Howard’s energy was bled down, his altitude decreased and his plane became separated from his group.  He climbed back to rejoin the bombers.  More than thirty German fighters were attacking the bomber formation and Major Howard single-handedly engaged them. He shot down two, probably shot down two more and damaged at least another two. He continued to attack even after he had run out of ammunition and was low on fuel. When he returned to his base at RAF Boxted, his Mustang had just a single bullet hole.  For this action, James H. Howard was awarded the Medal of Honor.  He is the only fighter pilot in the European Theater to receive this Medal. Howard was promoted to the rank of colonel.  Before the War, Howard had been a U.S. Navy pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) at Pearl Harbor. In June 194, prior to Pearl Harbor, he joined the American Volunteer Group—the “Flying Tigers”—in Burma, fighting for the Chinese against Japan. He is credited with shooting down 6 Japanese fighters.
The Mustang that he flew on the
day of the aerial battle near Oschersleben was named DING HAO! and carried the victory marks from those AVG actions. [“Ding Hao” was an American World War II slang term based on the Chinese phrase, 挺好的 (“ting hao de”) meaning “very good” or “number one”.]  DING HAO!, James H. Howard’s P-51B Mustang, was lost in combat 23 July 1944.



On January 11, 1908, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt declares the massive Grand Canyon in northwestern Arizona a national monument.  Though Native Americans lived in the area as early as the 13th century, the first European sighting of the canyon wasn’t until 1540, by members of an expedition headed by the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. Because of its remote and inaccessible location and no immediately exploitable natural resources, several centuries passed before North American settlers really explored the canyon. In 1869, geologist John Wesley Powell led a group of 10 men in the first difficult journey down the rapids of the Colorado River and along the length of the 277-mile gorge in four rowboats.  John Wesley Powell was an interesting individual.  During the Civil War, At the Battle of Shiloh, he lost most of his right arm when struck by a minie ball while in the process of giving the order to fire.  The raw nerve endings in his arm would continue to cause him pain for the rest of his life.  In 1869, he set out to explore the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. Gathering nine men, four boats and food for 10 months, he set out from Green River, Wyoming, on May 24. It seems a bit odd to begin an exploration of the Grand Canyon by beginning in Green River, Wyoming, but that was the closest railroad junction that could support the expedition.  Passing through dangerous rapids, the group passed down the Green River to its confluence with the Colorado River (then also known as the Grand River upriver from the junction), near present-day Moab, Utah, and completed the journey on August 30, 1869.  By the end of the 19th century, the Grand Canyon was attracting thousands of tourists each year. One famous visitor was President Theodore Roosevelt, a New Yorker with a particular affection for the American West.  Though a region could be given national park status–indicating that all private development on that land was illegal–only by an act of Congress, Roosevelt cut down on red tape by beginning a new presidential practice of granting a similar “national monument” designation to some of the West’s greatest treasures.
In January 1908, Roosevelt exercised this right to make more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon area into a national monument. “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he declared. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”  Congress did not officially outlaw private development in the Grand Canyon until 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act. Today, more than 5 million people visit the canyon each year. The canyon floor is accessible by foot, mule or boat, and whitewater rafting, hiking and running in the area are especially popular. A few years ago, I participated in a raft trip through the Grand Canyon for 276 miles.  Put that trip on your bucket list.


On January 11, 1973, the owners of America’s 24 major league baseball teams vote to allow teams in the American League (AL) to use a “designated pinch-hitter” that could bat for the pitcher, while still allowing the pitcher to stay in the game.  The idea of adding a 10th man to the baseball lineup to bat for the pitcher had been suggested as early as 1906 by the revered player and manager Connie Mack. In 1928, John Heydler, then-president of the National League (NL), revived the issue, but the rule was rejected at that point by the AL management. By the early 1970s, Charlie Finley, the colorful owner of the Oakland A’s, had become the designated hitter rule’s most outspoken advocate, arguing that a pinch-hitter to replace the pitcher–a player that usually batted poorly, exceptions like the legendary Babe Ruth notwithstanding–would add the extra offensive punch that baseball needed to draw more fans.  At a joint meeting of the two major leagues in Chicago on January 11, 1973, presided over by baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, the owners voted to allow the AL (which lagged behind the NL in both scoring and attendance) to put the designated hitter rule into practice. The NL resisted the change, and for the first time in history, the two leagues would play using different rules. In addition, the introduction of the designated hitter (Rule 6.10) marked the biggest rule change in major league baseball since 1903, when it was decided that foul balls would be considered strikes. Though it initially began as a three-year experiment, it would be permanently adopted by the AL and later by most amateur and minor league teams.  On April 6, 1973–Opening Day–Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees became the league’s first ever designated hitter. In his first plate appearance, he was walked on a full count by the Boston Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant.  David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox (left) was a brilliant DH, finished his career with 541 home runs, which ranks 17th on the MLB all-time home run list, 1,768 RBIs (22nd all-time) and a .286 batting average. Among designated hitters, he is the all-time leader in MLB history for home runs (485), runs batted in (RBIs) (1,569), and hits (2,192). Regarded as one of the best clutch hitters of all time, Ortiz had 11 career walk-off home runs during the regular season and 2 during the postseason.



Also on 11 January 1935, in the first flight of its kind, American aviator Amelia Earhart departs Wheeler Field in Honolulu, Hawaii, on a solo flight to North America. Hawaiian commercial interests offered a $10,000 award to whoever accomplished the flight first. The next day, after traveling 2,400 miles in 18 hours, she safely landed at Oakland Airport in Oakland, California.





During the 1920s and 30s, in the midst of the golden age of radio, there was a great increase in the appreciation of jazz and pop music.  Concurrently classical music drew enormous audiences both on the radio and during live performances.  Of the many performers, composers, and conductors who were the rock stars of their age, none made a greater impact on American audiences than a young pianist from Kiev, Vladimir Horowitz.  He made his debut at Carnegie Hall on 12 January 1928.  Sir Thomas Beecham was the headliner, as he was acting conductor of the New York Philharmonic.  Beecham drew rave reviews but it was Horowitz’s Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 that stole the show and established a special bond with American audiences that would make him the best known and beloved pianist for the next sixty years.  One critic noted this young man, “caused most ot the intermission to be occupied in applauding and cheering him and calling him back to the stage.  It has been years since a pianist created such a furvor with an audience in this city.”  He was acclaimed for his virtuoso technique, his tone color, and the excitement engendered by his playing.  I was very fortunate to hear him, at Carnegie Hall, in the early 1970’s.


On January 13, 1982, at 1559L, Air Florida Flight 90, a Boeing 737-222, registration N62AF, s/n 19556, began its takeoff roll at Washington National Airport (DCA). The departure had been delayed 1 hour, 45 minutes as the airport had been closed due to a snowstorm and runway snow removal. When the airport reopened, heavy snow was still falling.  Snow and ice had accumulated on the airliner’s wings and fuselage. The airplane had previously been improperly de-iced by Air Florida’s contractor, American Airlines.  The crew did not have hold-over tables.  The flight crew elected not to repeat the procedure. Further, they did not activate the engine deicing system.  During the takeoff the engines were slow to accelerate and the airplane took much longer than normal to gain flight speed. Though it did become airborne, the 737 reached an altitude of just 352 feet (107 meters) when it stalled and struck the 14th Street Bridge, and then crashed into the Potomac River.  The airliner broke through the ice covering the river and sank. There were only five survivors.  The U.S. Park Police responded with a 1979 Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II helicopter, Eagle 1, (N22PP, serial number 45287) flown by Officers Donald W. Usher and Melvin E. Windsor. The pilot, Don Usher, hovered low, sometimes with the skids of the helicopter in the water, while Gene Windsor tried to reach the survivors.
A passenger in the water, Arland D. Williams, Jr., twice caught lines that had been lowered from the helicopter, but in both cases, he passed them to others in the water.

When the rescue helicopter returned from dragging two passengers ashore, they could not find Williams.  The northbound span of the 14th Street Bridge was renamed the Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge.  AF-90 remains one of the most studied accidents because of all the human factors, CRM and weather factors involved.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the flightcrew’s failure to use engine anti-ice during ground operation and takeoff, there decision to takeoff with snow/ice on the airfoil surfaces of the aircraft, and the captain’s failure to reject the takeoff during the early stage when his attention was called to anomalous engine instrument readings. Contributing to the accident were the prolonged ground delay between deicing and the receipt of ATC takeoff clearance during which the airplane was exposed to continual precipitation, the known inherent pitchup characteristics of the B-737 aircraft when the leading edge is contaminated with even small amounts of snow or ice, and the limited experience of the flightcrew in jet transport winter operations. — NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT REPORT NTSB-AAR-82-8, 10 August 1982, Section 3.2 at Page 82