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:

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.]

Critical review:

NTSB comments reported:

Pilot's view:


WSJ review:

NTSB Report:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Savoia Marchetti SM 82

One of the rarest surviving aircraft is the sole remaining Savoia Marchetti SM 82 in the Italian Air Force Museum at Vigna di Valle, near Rome.

727 were built, but it is remarkable that any survived from war service (commencing in 1940 on the Axis side) particularly as the aircraft was of mixed construction, but with an all-wooden wing structure - very viable as a design, but vulnerable to damage in service, weather and ultimately very tempting for burning after even a minor accident.

SM 82 PW MM.61187 is preserved in its silver post war colour scheme and configuration with Pratt & Whitney R1830 engines.

Some history here:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

'Aircrew' at the Athenaeum Club

Honoured to be asked to speak to the ‘Aviation Table’ of the private Athenaeum Club, Melbourne at the start of next month.

I'll be discussing how the Aeroplane Monthly feature 'Aircrew' topic is chosen by the editor, artist Ian Bott and myself, and how Ian and I research and compile the story of each particular aircraft crew task. I'll look be pleased to revisit some of the fascinating byways and challenges of researching the diverse jobs people have done in aircraft over the last century. Better drag my notes together!