Aviation Archive

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy Wright Brothers Day, 2013

Wright Brothers' First Flight, December 17, 1903

110 years ago today, the Wright brothers became the first humans to fulfill the dream of flight. I've written about this before, and rather than repeat myself, I'll just link to those previous entries.

So happy Wright Brothers Day. And find a little wonder in the fact that you can go out and do something that our ancestors could only dream about for thousands and thousands of years.

Yes, this is copied nearly verbatim from my most recent Wright Brothers Day entry. For a short summary linking to other articles, I didn't see the need to rewrite it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Red Bull Air Race Practice in Olney, Texas

Red Bull Air Race LogoIf you follow this type of thing, you may have heard that the Red Bull Air Races are back (Wired - Crazy Red Bull Air Races Returning to the Skies in 2014). If you don't follow this type of thing, then here's a very brief background - the Red Bull Air Races consist of pilots flying light aerobatic planes through a series of pylons, at altitudes of less than 100 feet, doing some pretty amazing maneuvers to keep on course.

In preparation for their upcoming season, they decided to set up a mini training camp in Olney, Texas (Olney Enterprise - Pilots train for Red Bull Air Race). I guess they chose Olney because it's a nice big airport out in the middle of nowhere - perfect for the type of practice they're doing. And they kept the whole thing pretty hush hush. That Olney Enterprise article is the only online mention I've been able to find on them being in Olney, and it seems like the only reason they published that was so that the residents of Olney wouldn't question the giant inflatable cones popping up west of town.

But luckily for me, the company I work for does some flying down at the Olney airport, so some of our guys watched the entire Red Bull entourage come in and set up camp. So, I knew they were there, and knew they'd be flying. So, this past weekend, I went with a few of my friends to go watch the practice (and we were just about the perfect group to watch something like that - one aerospace engineer and three fighter pilots). It was great. Because of how quiet Red Bull had been about the whole thing, we were some of the only spectators there. So, not only did we get to watch some amazing flying, but we had an up-close and personal experience with the entire operation.

I managed to remember to take a few photos while I was there, but for the most part, I was just enjoying myself watching the flying. So, below are a few of the better pictures I managed to snap. Had I been more interested in taking pictures than just watching, I might have been able to get some better shots. (Click on any of the photos for a higher-res version.)

The Red Bull Air Races Come to Olney, TX


The Red Bull Air Races Come to Olney, TX


The Red Bull Air Races Come to Olney, TX


The Red Bull Air Races Come to Olney, TX


The Red Bull Air Races Come to Olney, TX


I also managed to capture a few videos. Just like with the photos, these aren't the greatest, since I was more interested in watching the goings on with my own eyes (not to mention the fact that I didn't have as good of a zoom lens for the video). And keep in mind that this was a practice, not a competition, so the pilots weren't flying the entire course every run, nor pushing it to the edge every time, especially in the earlier runs as they were getting used to the course.





All in all, it was a fun way to spend a Saturday morning, and a fine exhibition of some incredible piloting skills. I think I might just try to get tickets when they're actually racing at the Texas Motor Speedway.


Logo Source: Wikipedia

Friday, June 7, 2013

Own a Piece of History - DDWFTTW Car for Sale

Blackbird DDWFTTW DemonstratorAbout two years ago, I wrote about a very counterintuitive concept in the entry, Directly Downwind Faster Than the Wind (DDWFTTW). Also known by the slightly shorter acronym DWFTTW (for simply Downwind Faster Than the Wind), it's a vehicle that utilizes wind power to travel downwind faster than the wind is blowing. If that sounds impossible to you, go read my previous entry for an explanation of why it is, in fact, possible.

After arguing about it theoretically, and then building a small treadmill powered model, a team headed by Rick Cavallaro built a full scale manned vehicle to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept. This vehicle, named the Blackbird, set an official DDWFTTW record on July 2, 2010, certified by the North American Land Sailing Association (NALSA). Their top speed was 38.5 mph in a 13.5 mph wind - 2.85 times the wind speed.

Now, this vehicle is up for sale, and as of right now, it's not too terribly expensive. With just under 23 hours of bidding left, the current bid on e-bay is $5,120. If you're looking for an interesting, unique vehicle to own with a small place in aviation history, this is your chance. But don't wait. Bidding is over at 1:00 pm PDT on Saturday (tomorrow).

Here's the e-bay link:
Blackbird - Faster-Than-The-Wind vehicle

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gamera II Human Powered Helicopter Sets New Record

About a year ago, I wrote about a project at the University of Maryland, Gamera Human Powered Helicopter. They built a helicopter that was powered entirely by its pilot, Judy Wexler. She managed to keep in the air for 10.8 seconds. That may not seem like very long, but it was only the third human powered helicopter in history to even make it off the ground (I discussed the challenges of human powered flight in that previous entry, so there's no need to go over it again here). Judy was also the first female to power such a vehicle.

Gamera II

Gamera II

Now, the team from UMD is back with an improved aircraft, Gamera II. At only 71 lbs empty, it's 35 lbs lighter than the first Gamera. The informational handout from the official website also claims that the aircraft only requires 0.62 HP to hover, a significant improvement over the 1.03 HP for the previous machine (both calculations with 135 lb pilot).

So what have these improvements allowed? A flight time of 50 seconds with Kyle Gluesenkamp at the cranks. That's not quite the full minute required for the Sikorsky prize, but it's a big improvement over the previous record of 24 seconds set by the Nihon Aero Student Group's Yuri I. And the website says that they plan more flights in August, so they might yet hit the minute mark.

Here's a video of the record setting flight:

I found a certain chart from their informational handout to be very interesting. Here's the chart.

Gamera Comparison Chart

Of course, the top is interesting to see how much they've improved with this new design. But look at the bottom part, where it compares Gamera II to some other aircraft. It has more disk area than a CH-53E, which has a max takeoff weight of 73,500 lb (per Wikipedia). It's comparable in dimensions to a Boeing 737, which has a max takeoff weight of between 111,000 lbs and 187,700 lbs, depending on the model (again, per Wikipedia). It really goes to show just how hard it is to fly, and just how much power we can get out of the small powerplants we install on aircraft.

So once again, congratulations to the Maryland team, and best of luck in the coming months.

Further Info:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Plane Christmas Greeting

AOPA Christmas CardFor Christmas, here's a poem my great uncle wrote and sent to a few of us last year. In case you're wondering on the choice of aircraft in the poem, he was writing it for all the guys based out of the same airfield as he is. If you want the full effect, you can read a scan of the original. (BTW, if you like the picture for this entry, click on it and support the AOPA's Air Safety Foundation by buying a Christmas card with that as the front, or pick one of their many other aviation themed cards.)

A Plane Christmas Greeting
by Bud Eichel

T'was the night before Xmas,
At Finleyville "Airdrome".
Not a creature was stirring,
Human, elf, or gnome.

All Aircraft secured,
In their Hangar "stalls".
The Xmas shoppers,
Home from the Malls.

From atop the Hangar,
The wind-sock hung low.
And bathed in moon-light,
The runway was aglow.

The rest of the field,
Was snowy and white.
This flyer's home-base,
Was a beautiful sight.

Then quick as a wink,
Dark shadows appeared.
Following moon-beams,
As they all neared.

Big ones and small,
These shadows all grew.
Twisting and turning
As by me they flew.

They made a "formation",
The shape of a "V".
Now as they pass,
They are plain to see.

Stearmans and Wacos,
A Stinson went by.
T-Crafts and Luscombes,
All on the fly!

Home-builts, a Mooney,
A new Carter-copter.
A Cessna amphibian,
An L-2 Grasshopper.

PT's and BT's,
From World War Two.
And old-style craft,
Like the Wright Bros. flew.

A "Cub" and a Grumman,
A sleek Monocoupe.
Can you believe this?
A pretty, '47 Ercoupe!

Aeroncas and Cessnas,
A Beech Musketeer.
Of all these Planes,
Not one, could I hear!

Are they "ghosts" of the past?
Am I tired and weary?
Wait, just a minute,
I have a theory!

That Angels exist,
I have no doubt.
And on Christmas Eve,
I'm sure they're about.

Did they take the form,
Of things that I love?
Is this my "gift",
From Heaven above?

If this was a gift,
I'd sure like to share.
Merry Christmas, to All,
I wish you were there!

Happy Holiday's, and Happy Landing's, to all my Pilot friends, & families.


No matter how you celebrate this time of year (or even if you don't celebrate at all), I still hope you have a good time.

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