Thursday, December 30, 2010

Time for some Space

As anyone who frequents here knows I am an Aviation Buff. Well, having worked in the field for most of my life maybe “Buff” maybe an understatement. I also feel that going into space to be the natural next step in aviation.

I love the Space program and support most of what they do; I don’t think NASA should be involved in all the Climate stuff which is better left to NOAA and the NWS.

That being said, here is a link to a terrific series of pictures shot by Astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock who was recently the commander of the International Space Station (ISS). He took these photo’s while living and working in the ISS, they are incredible.

After that first batch, go here for More!!

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

According to USAF personnel the exact cause of the first combat loss of a CV-22 Osprey may never be known. Right now the AIB or Accident Investigating Board for the crash is leaning on blaming the pilot for the crash however, one of the investigators seems to feel the aircraft itself has some blame as well if not completely. See Story here.

Be it power loss or Pilot Error (the usual when a crash cannot be explained) there are mixed opinions on the exact cause which may never be found largely because the aircraft went down in a combat zone and had to be destroyed after everyone was pulled out of the aircraft (16 wounded and 4 KIA including the pilot at the controls).

Now normally that would be the end of the story but, the question of the engine problem kept cropping up especially since the stock V-22 comes equipped with an extensive in-flight monitoring system designed to store away not just engine operating parameters but also flight control inputs and many other environmental and flight characteristics that would easily clear up this conflict. Designed to fit in the handy “crash proof” container. So, where is this magical black box? Was it not retrieved along with the Crypto gear and other high value and classified avionics from the aircraft carcass prior to it being intentionally destroyed?

Yeah, well actually it was left behind.

In this story from Defense Tech they relate the story of how the box was seen but left on the ground with the aircraft wreckage because it was not on the master list of items to retrieve prior to aircraft destruction. Left behind and it had all the answers or at least more clues. Destroyed or stolen either way it was not brought out of the field.

Quoting from here (emphasis added):

Several rescue and salvage crews failed to grab the critical device because the incident recorder was not among the items listed for recovery at the crash site, according to Harvel. This was apparently due to a translation problem between U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force manuals for the V-22.

AFSOC inherited instructional manuals — called “Dash-1s” — for the CV-22 from the Marine Corps’ MV-22B units. It was necessary to translate the manuals from Marine piloting and maintenance jargon to USAF terminology, but the translators made a few mistakes, Harvel says.

“Somehow in that translation there was nothing in [the AFSOC manual] that showed this aircraft had a FIR,” he says.

“They had absolutely no idea.”

As a result, he adds, the FIR “was never on the list to get that off the airplane” after a crash.

Ok then, it seems like there is a problem here with not having Translators available to the USAF to clean-up their manuals. Now, where does one go to get a Marine Translator? Well, maybe the Navy has them since they seem to have Marines on some of their ships, maybe the White House has them to spare also since they fly the President around in a Marine Helicopter. It seems to me that finding a Marine Translator would have been easier than say, a Klingon Translator.

And let us ask some other more poignant questions, if not more sincere. How many years has the USAF been flying the CV-22? I did some digging and found that the first production CV-22 was delivered to the USAF at Edwards AFB in September 2005. This particular aircraft was a version of the MV-22B that the Marines use but equipped with RADAR and IR equipment that the Marines do not use. The AFSOC received its first production fully combat ready aircraft in March of 2006. So the USAF had 5 years to get this “translation” done and the AFSOC had more than 4-years to figure out all that specialized Marine jargon and find the USAF equivalent terminology.

What a shame.

Now back to some snark. In the world of the US Military the Marines are labeled as the most serious organized killing machine in the world however, no one and I mean NO ONE in the US Military family claims them as the smartest. Not by a long shot. In fact I would guess that the USAF would claim being the smartest because they get all the latest gear and have found a way to keep from actually getting dirty during war time. So the USAF would claim to be the smartest. Yet, they can’t figure out Marine jargon? And they have had 4 to 5 years to carry those nasty dirty Marine manuals over to the nearest Navy base and ask them for some help with the Translation. / Snark off.

If people had not died and the fact that the AIB is willing to impune the reputation of the Pilot that died in this incident this would be laughable. But the whole AFSOC should be ashamed for not catching this and more importantly, using “translation” of a brother service’s jargon as the excuse. Especially since there are several Standards and Specifications that detail the use of acronyms and abbreviations used in the development of military documentation.

Back home here in the swamp, we live with a Marine and being a former Squid I know how to translate so that my wife and the mother of said Marine has a way to communicate without too many hand signals. I am available to the USAF to assist them in any further “translations” that they may need. Just saying.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Flight - Powered by Wright

First Flight – Powered by Wright: Today, 17 December back in 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew a heavier than air vehicle powered by an engine. The two brothers operated a bicycle business in Dayton Ohio and were both skilled machinists. Their life hobby of kite flying led them to a Kitty Hawk North Carolina beach with a hand built man-sized kite or glider that would evolve into the powered Wright Flyer.

From their workshop in Dayton their in-house Engineer custom built the engine that would be used in the Wright Flyer because engines of the day did not have the power to weight ratio required for “heavier-than-air” flight. They used spruce wood in the construction of the vehicle for strength and its workability. They would have to “sweat” parts into shape. This is a process of using forms and steam to press the wood into shapes other than straight. They also crafted their own geared sprockets to transfer the power from the motor to the two propellers that would push the vehicle. The wings were covered in “Pride of the West” muslin that was mostly used in women’s undergarments.

Their observations of their kite and glider flying led them to question some fundamental precepts of aeronautics such as they were back in 1903. The two men constructed miniature airfoils representing wings and propellers (more than 200 in fact) and tested them in a hand build Wind Tunnel.
Picture Above: This is a replica of the wind tunnel that the Wright Brothers built and used to test airfoil designs. Their precise calculations and measurements led to new understanding of lift and airfoil shapes and to control of those shapes during flight. Picture from the Virgina Air and Space Muesum in Hampton Virgina.

Doing so, they re-wrote the book on lift and their new designs were vastly superior to others of the day. This led to successful flights of a manned glider and eventually the Wright Flyer.

Picture to right: This is the 1902 Wright Glider with Wilbur suspended in the middle of the frame. They used a crude trapase contraption to "warp" the wings and shift the balance of weight or Center of Gravity to manuver the aircraft. This glider was produced directly from the research conducted by the Brothers using their wind tunnel. It proved the design and the men moved towards adding power to the airframe. Picture taken from Wikipedia, source unknown.

Moreover, their analysis led them directly to discovery of control mechanisms to be used while airborne for the turning of the aircraft, control of assent and of course decent as well. These were important touches; many others were flirting at the time with flight in heavier-than-air machines. But it was the Wright Brothers who pioneered controlled flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

Both men were self taught in both business and aeronautics, neither attended college nor did either have official credit for finishing High School. They would operate several aviation business building aircraft and a Flying School. One of those early students was a fledgling pilot by the name of Henry “Hap” Arnold who would rise to the rank of 5-star General in the U.S. Army commanding the Army Air Corps during World War II and who would eventually be the first head of the U.S. Air Force.
Picture Above: First flight at Kitty Hawk with Orville at the controls. That is Wilbur running along side. This first flight was a mere 120 feet and lasted 12 seconds. The Brothers would fly three more times that day before a wind gust destroyed the aircraft. Library of Congress Photo orginally taken by John T. Daniels (US Coast Guard).

Their original companies survive today as part of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation which is still producing cutting edge avionics and aerospace products. Humble men they were, neither ever married and today are celebrated as pioneers of a remarkable industry.

Ride in any aircraft today except for a Hot Air Balloon and you are a direct beneficiary of the hard work of the Wright Brothers.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tanker Wars/KC-X Winner - Airbus?

In todays Tanker Wars update we have this breaking news - Airbus is the apparent winner of at least the technical side of the competition. Here is the Story. The upshot here is that Airbus scored many points on the larger size aircraft they proposed than Boeing did with their KC-767 Next Gen tanker proposal.

The competition now goes down to cost and my thoughts are that Boeing doesn't stand a chance. Despite the A330 being a much larger aircraft to build and correspondingly higher costs to build, Airbus will still out bid Boeing. Remember folks, Airbus is NOT in this competition to build aircraft or to make a profit, the partner governments which fund Airbus simply want to keep people working building aircraft in Europe. Even though Airbus claims they will spend huge money building a "post" production facility in the USA, it will only be a token effort in the end because they really only want to keep europeans employed with this effort.

Boeing on the other hand has to make a profit and they can not compete against a business model that does not.

Plain and simply, our air borne war fighters will be taking gas from an aircraft built by socialists!!

Its really too bad that the US defense industrial complex could not defend itself from a hostile takeover of this magnatude. What next, will the next Air Force 1 be an Airbus?

BT: Jimmy T sends.