Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Aircrew's - 100 Up & Out

 It's the final Aircrew feature in Aeroplane Monthly by Ian Bott and myself. Thanks to Ben Dunnell for the note, and Ian's write up below.

I'll just say that we weren't out of ideas and had still a good list of potential roles to do, but we didn't want to end up doing 'riffs on a theme' - minor variations between similar roles either. In short though, 100 was a good number, and we all thought it was time to move on to new projects!

It's a demanding, engrossing project that's taken a lot of my time and energy over the last seven years. And it's been a fascinating journey, and I've learned a lot and hundreds of people have helped to make it what it was. However three people without whom...

Ian Bott, a great artist, and a great guy to work with on this. We've pulled each other into doing things we'd perhaps otherwise not have done, but each and every one's been well worth it. Original editor Michael Oakey, who got us started with it, and current editor Ben Dunnell of Aeroplane Monthly, both who supported us with the it, and both gave us their backing and a remarkably free hand too.

So we'll be keen to see what people think of the replacement once it's out - no sneak peeks yet, except to say Ben's been very supportive of the idea, and Ian and I will be working together on it - which we're pleased to do.

You can amuse yourself in the meantime by seeing if you can name all the subjects (not just the aircraft - that's too easy) in Ian's picture montage above...

Ian said: "Here's the latest Aircrew feature on the job of an EF-111 Raven electronic warfare officer in the new issue of Aeroplane Monthly with illustration by me and words by James Kightly. It's a big landmark for us because it's the 100th feature and, sadly, it's also the final one."

Ben Dunnell's editorial comment - thanks, Ben - "This month marks the end of an Aeroplane era, as our popular Aircrew column, so diligently compiled by James Kightly and splendidly illustrated by Ian Bott, comes to a conclusion. Their examination of the role of a US Air Force EF-111 Raven electronic warfare officer is the 100th subject in the series, and we felt that this milestone provided a suitable opportunity on which to close. Thanks to James and Ian for all their hard work on Aircrew - but they'll be back to collaborate on a new regular feature from the May issue onwards. Watch this space."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A hat with a light

Not something you see very often! The 1980s Royal Navy Historic Flight had a pith helmet (or shola topee) fitted with a rotating red beacon that was sometimes 'used' by one of the crew of Fairey Swordfish LS326 during taxiing.



It's seen here at the Shuttleworth Collection's Old Warden airfield.

I do hope it made it into the RNHF's regimental curios collection.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Airfix to release 1/48 Walrus kit

Airfix's announcement. So it's clearly a good time to update the Supermarine Walrus book. 
[Image: Airfix]
I think a book on just the Walrus and Seagull this time, rather than the (recently available) MMP book I wrote on the Walrus and Stranraer. 
What do you think?

[Image: Airfix]
And a PS: thanks to those who pointed it out to me!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bomber Crew: Then & Now

An image of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster crew taken by Paul B shows the flight engineer and navigator working (closer to the camera) with the two pilots above and ahead.

Two things. Firstly the Flight's Lancaster isn't configured as the W.W.II Lancasters were - the wartime examples flew as one pilot (on the left) and with a flight engineer on the right on a not-permanently-fitted jump seat, and with the navigator further aft in a screened off compartment.

Secondly I was immediately reminded of a wartime painting: "Take Off: Interior of a Bomber Aircraft" by Dame Laura Knight, official war artist.

Because of the Flight's reconfiguration of the cockpit area for modern use, there's a remarkable similarity to the crew in Knight's painting - even though the crew in that are aboard the (now-extinct) Short Stirling heavy bomber, the only one of the RAF's three heavies two have a two pilot cockpit. It is interesting how, though different, the crew's positions echo their counterpart's. (For accuracy - in Knight's painting the nearest figure is actually the radio operator, not the flight engineer as in the Flight's image.)

Lancaster from the BBMF's Facebook page here. Details of Knight's painting in the IWM collection here.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Beautiful Rubbish

 The axiom 'if it looks right it'll fly right' has more than enough exceptions to ensure it shouldn't be taken seriously. Most obvious examples are ugly, highly successful aircraft (it's often forgotten that the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was initially regarded as so ungainly it was said to have been 'delivered upside down') but there's also a dishonourable list of beautiful failures.


A good pair would be the British Bristol 188 (above) and the American Douglas X-3 Stiletto (below).


Both experimental aircraft from the golden age of probing the supersonic possibilities, both essentially failures - to be fair, both more to do with inadequate engines than airframe issues, but it has to be said their concepts were ultimately found to be unviable. Another connection is that both featured exotic metals in their primary construction. Stainless steel in the Bristol and Titanium in the Douglas, and both providing major headaches for their manufacture.

What other beautiful failures can you think of?

Boxkite Anniversary

On the 11 September, 2013, at 7:24 pm, just at dusk, the Bristol Military Biplane Boxkite replica VH-XKT flew for the first time.

Three years ago tonight.

The first flight in 2013. 

Built by Project 2014, Group Captain Ron Gretton, AM, OAM, and Wing Commander Geoff Matthews, OAM, both RAAF Retired, for the RAAF Museum, this proved the aircraft worked, and it was to go on to be flown on both days of the 2014 Centenary of Military Aviation Airshow at RAAF Point Cook on the 1st and 2nd of March 2014.

Sadly the aircraft is currently grounded, but it did what it was designed to do.

An RAAF Museum Archives image of one of the original Australian Army Boxkites at RAAF Point Cook, circa 1914-15.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

'Sully' Movie


'Sully' Movie. Three facts.


1. Often called 'The Miracle on the Hudson', it wasn't a 'miracle'. It was training, developed procedures, design. Behind that came experience, skill and lastly, luck - first bad, then good.

2. The successful forced landing on water wasn't one pilot's achievement, but the achievement of an aircraft crew, both cockpit and cabin crew, and those that trained them, those that legislated to ensure they had the tools training and experience to do an exceptional job. (Humans seem to need solo heroes. Don't forget those that give heroes the tools and backup.)

There's something called Cockpit (sometimes Crew) Resource Management. Worth a look, it's about teamwork and can apply in any team. It has not been about 'one pilot in charge in an airliner' for decades now. For instance, see: http://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Crew_Resource_Management

3. 'They' weren't out to 'Sully' him. The (US') National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) portrayal in the film (and in the trailer, above) is a fictionalised film device to have an adversary and dramatic tension. There are a lot of questions, checking and paperwork after an airliner crash. Their job is not to blame or pillory the pilot or crew, but to gather data for future accident prevention.

It's the media where the pillorying occurs. (Captain Sullenberger believes it was, the NTSB weren't asked to be involved in the film making.) Unsurprisingly, there's been negative views from ex-NTSB members on this film. Whether that's fair or not the NTSB and their peers in Australia, Canada, the UK, Europe, New Zealand and so on are a key element that goes to make airlines flying as safe as it is for us. Enjoy the film, but remember: "Allyn Stewart, one of the film’s producers, told the New York Times that the film is not meant to be a documentary." Indeed.

[I generally don't touch modern airliner activities, but this accident is unarguably a part of aviation history, and too important to leave to a no-doubt gripping entertainment by 'Hanks'. Oh, sorry, actually a large team making a film.]

Links:
Critical review:
http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/09/the-silliness-of-sully/499247/

NTSB comments reported:
http://qz.com/778011/sully-ntsb-investigators-are-not-happy-about-being-made-the-villains-in-clint-eastwoods-film-starring-tom-hanks-as-chesley-sully-sullenberger/

http://www.thewrap.com/does-sully-sully-the-reputations-of-ntsb-investigators/

Pilot's view:
http://www.owenzupp.com/writing-blog/sully-the-movie-one-pilots-perspective

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjKEXxO2KNE

WSJ review:
http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-sully-movie-lands-but-its-drama-isnt-on-the-river-1473105448?mod=e2fb

NTSB Report:
http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/AAR1003.pdf