Friday, April 27, 2012

The Airplane Geeks Aircraft of the Week: The Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama

In the late 60’s the Indian Government set out a requirement for a Helicopter that could fly in “Hot and High” climates. Aérospatiale submitted a Helicopter based on their Successful Alouette II.  The Alouette II first flew in 1955 and was being replaced by the heaver more powerful Alouette III.  The submission of the new Helicopter would be a blending of these two proven rotorcraft.

The SA 315B Lama would use the smaller airframe of the Alouette II.  The airframe however was reinforced and strengthened.  To that airframe was mated the Alouette III power plant the Turbomeca Astazou IIIB. The IIIB originally rated at 870 Shaft Horsepower it was down rated to 550 Shaft Horsepower.  The lighter airframe mated to the more powerful engine gives the LAMA gives the ability to carry up to 4 people or a maximum of 2,500 pounds of slung payload.

The new helicopter was first flown on March 17, 1969 piloted by Roland Coffignot and Gerard Boutin.  It would get its French airworthiness certificate in 1970.  In 1971 HAL, or Hindustan Aeronautics Limited received the license to produce the LAMA as the Cheetal.  The HAL version first flew on October 6, 1972.  Helibras of Brasil received a license in 1978 for production of the LAMA it is called the Gavião.

India primary uses the Cheetah for patrols and Search and rescue in the Himalayas.  Launching from Bases as high as 24,600 Feet.  That’s 4.65 miles high.  India also has created an armed version called the Lancer.  The Lancer incorporates, up-rated armour plate and has two pods carrying a 12.7mm machine gun and three unguided rockets.  The Lancer has a redesigned “bubble” for reinforcement and better visibility.  For self-defense it has the addition of Flairs and Chaff.

The LAMA is to operate in extreme climes.  To prove this Aérospatiale wanted to originally land a LAMA on top of one of the Himalayan Mountains however it not given permission by the India Government.  Aerospatiale decided on setting some records.  In 1969 a crew of two with 260 Lbs of fuel took off and then landed at the then highest recorded altitude for a helicopter 24,605 feet above sea level.  I might add that this has become routine for this helicopter.

On June 21, 1972 Jean Boulet took off solo in a modified SA 315B, the airframe had all of the interior removed except for the necessities for the pilot. He began is assent into the record books. Boulet a trained Engineer and Test pilot climbed his Lama to the still unbroken absolute height of 40,814 Feet.  Boulet upon reaching that  altitude began to throttle back the Turbo Engine only to have a the engine flame out.  Boulet then began another record, albeit an unexpected one.  Boulet autorotated, for over 30 minutes, until he safely landed.  This is the unofficial world’s longest autorotation.  It can never be official because it wasn’t planned for or officially documented. 

In 2009 HAL reopened their line and started producing the Cheetah with the new Turbomeca TM 333.  A single engine version, of the power plant, that drives the Dauphin and Panther helicopters.

Aérospatiale has produced 447 Lamas 

Monday, April 23, 2012

ENTERPRISE, the un-sung hero of the Shuttle Fleet.

NASA’s OV-101 Constitution contract was awarded to Rockwell North American on July 26th 1972, the first of the SPACE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM.  Constitution named after the USS Constitution “Old Ironsides” OV-101 was to be the first flying orbiter.  She was to be debuted on September 17th 1976, Constitution Day.   Starting in late 1975 a write in by fans of the show STAR TREK to the White House, caused President Gerald R. Ford to “Suggest” to NASA that maybe the Shuttle should be renamed. On September 17th 1976 Enterprise was rolled out to the public as the first Space Shuttle.  Gene Rodenberry, and the majority of the crew of  NCC-1701 were there to greet her.

Enterprise’s differed from her sister Columbia.  She had a different tail. She was covered in simulated tiles made out of polyurethane foam, instead of the High-Temperature Reusable Insulation Tiles.  Her leading edge surfaces were made of fiberglass instead of the reinforced Carbon Carbon on the space flown orbiters.

Enterprise was then towed by truck 36 miles to the NASA Dryden facility for ground handling tests.  Enterprise then was hoisted aboard a former American Airlines 747 N905NA after ground tests the pair took to the skies on February 18, 1977.  This was the first step in what was to be called the ALT or Approach and Landing Tests.  There were five unmanned captured tests followed by five manned captured tests. On August 12, 1977 a seven year old boy watched on a small color television in his Aunt’s den, Enterprise separated from the SCA and flew on her own.  The world’s largest glider, flew for 5 minutes 53 seconds and landed safely on Rodgers Dry Lake Bed.  Enterprise would repeat the process for more times after that flight.  Four times on the lakebed and once on the concrete runway at Edwards AFB.  Three times with the aerodynamic fairing twice without.  On average the landing speed of  Enterprise was about 220 miles per hour. 

Enterprise was then flown around various NASA facilities for testing.   In June of 1979 she became the first shuttle to be mounted to the stack or boilerplate.  The Stack is an Orbiter fitted to the ET ( External Tank) and the SRBs or Solid Rocket Boosters.   She then was transported by crawler to Launch Pad 39A.  After a couple of days she was transported back to the Vehicle Assembly Building and removed from the ET/SRB set up. 

During May and June of 1983 Enterprise became a good will embassidor and was flown to the Paris Airshow, as well as making stops in Germany, England, Italy and Canada.

In November of 1984 She was wisked off to Vandenberg Air Force Base.  It was here that she was again part of a Stack to check the fit of the pad at Space Launch Complex 6 otherwise known as Slick 6.  Enterprise would be the only shuttle ever to grace that top secret launch center. For various reasons it would not be used but that is another story. 

Eventually Enterprise would be returned to Dryden.  Originally Enterprise was to be the Second Shuttle in orbit.  She was to be refitted to the standards of Columbia.  For budgetary reasons NASA decided to refit the structural test Shuttle OV-099 and christened her Challenger.   With the loss of Challenger on January 28, 1986.  Enterprise again was looked at as a replacement.  Again for budgetary reasons it was easier to build a new shuttle out of spare parts, she of course became Endeavour. 

When Enterprise’s sister Columbia  broke up on re-entry.  Enterprise gave up a Fiberglass panel of her leading edge to have foam shot at it.  These tests concluded that it was foam of the external tank that could caused the fatal damage to Columbia.

On November 18, 1985 Enterprise was again attached to the SCA.  She was ferried to Dulles airport where she stayed, until November 2004 when the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar was opened to the public.   On April 19th she was pulled out into the open air to meet her, another of her siblings Discovery, who took her place.   Enterprise now will move one more time to take her place in New York Harbor, aboard the USS Intrepid in June!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Airplane Geeks "Spacecraft" of the week: OV-103 the STS DISCOVERY

The Rockwell Space Transportation System OV-103 aka the Space Shuttle Discovery.
First flown on August 20th, 1984 Discovery was the fourth Shuttle built and the third to fly into space. Discovery was the first of the second generation shuttles.   She was 6000+ pounds lighter than Columbia. It was this Optimization that made it able to dock with the International Space Station.  Columbia was never able to do that due to its weight.   Discovery is 6 pounds heavier than her sister Atlantis. 
All of the Orbiters were (seems strange to say past tense) equipped with three Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-25 Liquid Fuelled Cryogenic Rockets. The SSME or Space Shuttle Main Engines develop 418 thousand pounds of force each.  The three engines are fueled by the mix of  Liquid Oxygen and Liquid Hydrogen. The Nozzles are 10 inches at the top and 90 inches at the main opening.  The engines themselves reach a temperature of 5,999 degrees Fahrenheit that is higher than the boiling point of Iron.  The nozzles are gimbled to that they can be vectored to help control flight.  The Fuel source for the engines is the Central tank. The Orbiter the SRBs and the main tank are called the Stack.   The SRBs or Solid Rocket Boosters are attached to the tank,  they do not draw fuel from it.  They are self-contained.
There are also two sets of Orbital Maneuvering System.  They are the large pods next to the Vertical Tail. The OMS is used to orbit or correct orbits, and most importantly de-orbit the shuttle so she can return to earth. The OMS pods also include the Reaction Control System for the rear of the shuttle. The RCS which uses Helium controls Pitch Yaw and Roll of the Shuttle in orbit.  The forward RCS are the holes at the nose of the Shuttle.
This week the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven Udvar-Hazy Center will be receiving the Discovery in its collection.  But anyone who’s been to Udvar-Hazy knows that in the James A McDonnell Space Hangar has a shuttle already.  Why the swop?  The Shuttle in there currently is OV-101 the Enterprise.  Enterprise while significant never flew in Space.  She was part of the Approach and Landing Tests. Enterprise was the largest placeholder in the world.  She lived at NASM until another would replace her. It was finally decided it would be Discovery.  I believe that originally the Smithsonian was to get Columbia.  Enterprise will be transferred to NYC to sit next to the Concorde at the USS Intrepid Museum.
Why is Discovery going to NASM over the other remaining Shuttles; Atlantis and Endeavour?  Discovery is the most significant of the remaining shuttles.  Here are some of the stats that make her special:
·       She was the third shuttle to fly into space however the has been in space the longest. 
·       She has spent 365 days in space.
·       She has flown 149 Million Miles, and completed 5,830 orbits. 
·       She, three times brought the program back to life.  She completed the three “Return to Flight” missions after the losses of Columbia and Challenger.  
·       She was the one who deployed the Hubble Space Telescope.  
·       She has carried two Senators, Jake Garn and John Glenn, who at 77 still is the oldest person to have been in space. 
·       Discovery was the first shuttle with a woman pilot Eileen Collins.
·       Discovery was the First shuttle to dock with the International Space Station. 
·       She also has the record for longest duration mission STS-131 with 15 days in orbit. 
·       She also flew the 100th Space Shuttle Mission.
Discovery now grounded begins this week a new mission.  She will represent 27 years of Human Space Flight!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Airplane Geeks Aircraft of the Week: Mitsubshi F-2A/B VIPER ZERO

In 1984 General Dynamics proposed a advanced F-16, called the “Agile Falcon”   Agile Falcon included what eventually became he MSIP IV upgrades for the F-16 Fleet.  This included the ability to fire the AIM-9X colour displays, and uprated engines. 

The biggest change to the F-16 proposed by Agile Falcon would be a twenty five percent increase in its wing area.  This would allow for an additional hard point on each wing.   All of these improvements were two-fold, one it was to restore the performance of the F-16C/D variants to equal that of the A/B and secondly was to provide a lower cost alternative to the then proposed Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

While this proposal was going on Japan began its FS-X program to replace its indigenous fighters.  The Mitsubishi F-1 and T-2, were a home grown derivative of the SEPCAT Jaguar. Japan’s primary defense fighters at the time were the F-4EJ and the F-15J, the F-1s were a secondary fighter, used in training and Anti-shipping.

In October of 1987 the JSDAF selected the F-16 as a replacement for the F-1/T-2 family.  The F-16 AGILE Falcon would be the basis of the new indigenous fighter.

The F-2 as the FS-X would eventually be called would be a 60/40 manufacturing split between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Lockheed/Martin.  With various other Japanese and US contractors.   The power plant contract was awarded to General Electric, for their F-110-GE-129 Turbofan. 

The F-2’s empty weight is 21,000 lbs compared to an F-16C that is 18,000 lbs.  The increased weight is due to the twenty-five percent increase in wing area, which also included an enlargement of the horizontal tail planes. However it was substantially less than the Agile Falcon wing, due to the use of composites.  It also provided the added benefit of a lower radar cross section.  All of these technologies have been used on later block F-16s

While retaining the shape of the F-16, the F-2 has a wider nose area.  This is to accommodate the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation J/APG-1 AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) Radar. Japan continues to improve that radar system and expects to upgrade 60 F-2’s shortly. The F-2 has the “Big Mouth” intake to help the F-110.  A very unique feature of the F-2, came out due to the wider nose area, the F-2 has a three-piece canopy, where the traditional F-16 has two.

The F-2s first flight was on October 7, 1995.  The aircraft was ordered into production and the first aircraft entered service in 2000 after testing of the four original prototypes.

The primary mission of the F-2A is Self Defense Anti-Shipping.   It completes that mission  by delivering the ASM-1 and later the ASM-2 anti shipping  ALCM or  Air Launched Cruise Missile. The Type 80 ASM-1 has a range of 50 Kilometers carrying a 600 Kilogram high explosive warhead.  The missile is jet propelled and is over 12 feet long with a 5 foot wingspan.  This anti-shipping mission also explains the Viper Zeros very different Blue and Blue camouflage.

The F-2 Program has been expensive to Japan. Originally it was to be approximately 10 Million per unit, with the initial purchase being 141 aircraft.  In 2004 it was reduced to 94 aircraft at a cost of 110 million each.  Technologies swopped between the US and Japan have been quite successful. Mitsubishi delivered the Final F-2A to the JSDAF on September 27, 2011 thus ending production of the VIPER ZERO.

On Friday March 11th 2011 the world watched as the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami tore apart Japan.  Mastsushima Kitchi, which is seven feet above sea level, was flooded with seawater.  Of the 18 21st Squadron F-2B trainers,  12 were total write offs.  To Salvage the remaining six aircraft will be approximately 80 Billion Yen.  The necessity is that these were the two seat training versions of the aircraft.

The Viper Zero has a unique part of the F-16 history.   It is the epitome of the old saying  “it’s the same but different!”  Eventually it will be replaced by the Joint Strike Fighter in JSDAF service, ironically the aircraft it was supposed to be an alternative to .

Works Cited
"Earthquake Devastates Japan F-2 Sqd." - The DEW Line. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.
"F-2 Attack Fighter, Japan." F-2 Attack Fighter. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.
"Japan Making Its F-2 Fighter Fleet More Lethal." Defense Update. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.
"Media Gallery." Photo Gallery. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.
"Mitsubishi F-2." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.
"Specifications." Type 80 ASM-1. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <>.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Airplane Geeks The Aircraft of the Week: Thwipplenut Parakeet

Photo Unavailable!

First flown on April 2, 1983.  The Parakeet was a homebuilt aircraft.  Paul “Bunyon” Thwipplenut was a large pilot.   He was 6’4 and 275 Lbs.  He had a love of aviation but couldn’t fit into most airplanes.  His wife Christina Smith was an heiress to a coal fortune in Western PA.   Paul decided that he needed to create a “Portly” homebuilt aircraft.   Christina obliged him and bought him a kit from the legendary Bede Aircraft Corporation purchased from the original batch in 1973

Needless to say the “Gift” that his wife gave him, a BD-5 would need to be modified to fit his circumstances.  

The BJ-5 has a width of three feet.  The Parakeet, was widened by Paul by another two feet.  Paul also realized, the aircraft would have a very different center of gravity than intended.  So he lengthened the fuselage from 12 feet to 18 feet.  Ironically this change caused many of the other BD-5s to grow to 13.5 feet.   Bede released the “Stretch Kits” based on Paul’s calculations.  

The kit purchased by Christina was one of the original kits with only a 14 foot wingspan.  This clearly wasn’t going to work so Thwipplenut extended the wing by buying another wing from Bede to use as the left wing.   Also to counter the torque from his power plant of choice the R-2800, which he found on a farm near his house in Kentucky, he added an additional 6 feet of wing on the right hand side of the aircraft.  Making the wingspan 34 feet long. 

The choice of the R-2800 power plant did make for more complex build. Sometimes cheaper isn’t better.  The R-2800 was purchased for $100.00 dollars. The fuselage again was widened to accommodate the engine in pusher mode.  Paul then spent three more years trying to find a prop.  He eventually made his own out of Balsawood laminates.  Since the Aircraft would need a diameter prop of  13’ feet.  He took a lesson from the Vought Corporation and revamped the wing again to make it an Inverted Gull.   The prop though was not three bladed but actually Eight Bladed.  Another engineering feet eventually picked up by Grumman for their E-2C family. 

After a 10 year build the Aircraft was ready to be flown on the Grass field of Thwipplenut’s estate.  Christina did the Honors of christening the plane.  With a bottle of Dom Perignon 1888 she christened the aircraft “Ricardo” after her grand champion Platycerncini Peirce Parakeet.  Unfortunately the bottle did not break, which all sailors know is bad luck.  The first sign of this was the local interest story covered by The Advocate-Messenger would be cancelled after the naming due to the high winds.   Paul would not be able to fly that day, April first.

The following morning the Press could not come because of a huge fire at the local general store.  Undaunted Paul strapped into his masterful creation and roared down the grass strip. The portly aircraft took to the skies over Western Kentucky.  However no one was there except Christina who took a few Polaroids to document her Love’s creation.  After a 10-minute flight Thwipplenut returned to the grass strip realizing he was danger.  The oversized Monster truck wheels he used for the landing gear had ripped off on take-off.  Thwipplenut landed the Parakeet on its belly and skidding into a hedge. Christina dropped the photos into the dew-covered grass to run to her Husband.  The Photo were a total loss, like the Parakeet.

Thwipplenut never flew again.  He ended up blowing most of Christina’s fortune on Moonshine.  They divorced and he was never heard of again. 

However if it wasn’t for Paul “Bunyon” Thwipplenut we wouldn’t have this Airplane of the Week for April Fools Day!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We had good news finally at PHL. Sir Richard & his Virgin arrived! #VXPHL

Today was a good day at Philadelphia International Airport. We got our first new airline in 8 years Sir Richard Branson's Virgin America.  It was a cool day witnessing a new era at PHL.

All Photo's are Copyrighted  Yours Truly. 

April #avgeekphoto challenge by @airport_girl : My log Book

So if you don't know what this is about check out #avgeekphoto Challenge   Since Stephanie asked me to participate I thought I would keep a log of my photos, as well as post them to twitter.  So here it goes I not sure I can do all thirty but I will try.

Day #1  Your Favorite Airline: Lufthansa

Day#2 Fixed Wing: Ok small in this case

Day#3 Your Favorite Aircraft: Of Course its the C-130
Day#4 A Pilot:  Well here is my Favorite A-380 Pilot @jetwhine Robert Mark with me

Day#5 Night Flight 
 Day#6 Cockpit the Lovely Steam Gauges of a C-130E!

Day #7 An Engine.  The front of the Rolls Royce Pegasus 

Ok, and the back at least the right side! The movable bits. 

Day #8: Wheels Down!  An QF-4E  Gear, Flaps, Hook all hanging out.

Day#9 Wheels Up!  

Day #10 Contrails both Military & Civilian 

Day #11 Window Seat Over Chi Town

Day#12 Rotors The Sky Soldiers Demonstration Team

Day #13 Tail Art.  I have been waiting for this one!! The Star Warriors  VAQ-209's CAG. 

Day #14 Landing Gear  The Nose Gear door of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force's B-2 

Day #15 Logo's and Livery's  Old School from Smithsonian's Boeing Stratoliner 

Day #16  Wings Ok one  wing!  The Northrop Grumman X-47B 

Day #17  An Airport I Love! Cape May County/NAS Wildwood  KWWD

Day #18 An Airport I HATE??  Stephanie explain ?  Does not Compute?  As a true #AVGEEK there can't be such as place.  I refuse to comply with such silliness.  Rant Over. 

Day#19  The Frequent Flyer Lounge.  Well have to stretch, a little  Here is the Shuttle's most Frequent flyer Discovery #OV103 in her new lounge @airandspace Udvar-Hazy Center. 

Day #20 The Fleet!  My Personal Fleet of . . . Models and the Legendary TAIL HOOK 

Day #21 Baggage Handling Well all the baggage I had when I came home from #OSH11

Day #22 On Approach Well here is OV-103 Discovery aboard the SCA on final to her home at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. 

Day #23 Metal Birds:  Not an ounce of carbon fiber in this lot!

Day #24 General Aviation 

Day #25 Military Aviation Three of the Greatest Military Fighters.

Day #26 A Piece of Aviation History The Bell 47K  that President Eisenhower became the first President to fly in a Helicopter.

Day#27 Your Aviation Hero R.A. "Bob" Hoover

Day #28 Birth of Aviation Well the Birth of Naval Aviation  The 1911 Curtis Pusher Replica

Day #29 Experimental Aircraft  Rutan's Boomerang!!

Day #30 An AvGeek on his Birthday!!  ME!!!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Airplane Geeks Aircraft of the Week: Lockheed L329/ C-140 JetStar

Lockheed, was for a time producing things for the USAF before the USAF new they needed it. The Lockheed L-329 was one of those products. The USAF was looking for an off the shelf jet transport. Kelly Johnson designed the L-329 It was a twin engined jet transport, which would become the very first “Biz jet” The aircraft had seating for 10 people with a crew of three, Pilot, First Officer and cabin crew. Unfortunately for Lockheed the Budget for jet transports dried up.

The L-329 was unique in several ways. One was its wing. Each wing had one oversized “Slipper” tanks. While not a Lockheed invention, the slipper tanks have been used on the U-2 since inception. The Jetstar also larger than most business jets. One of the unique cabin features was that you could stand up in the Aircraft. Ok well I couldn’t but normal people can. The seats are raised up so that you step down into the isle. Also the cabin windows were larger than normal.

The L-329 was originally to be powered by the Bristol Siddley Orpheus turbojet. The two engines were attached to the Fuselage at the rear. The Orpheus could generate 4,850 pounds of thrust. Orpheus engines powered the Folland Gnat, and the Fiat G-91 “Gina” However its attachment to the L-329 wouldn’t be long. The First Orpheus powered L-329 took to the skies on September 4th 1957. Lockheed began negotiations to produce the Orpheus engine under license. When the negotiations failed Lockheed had to find another solution cause it had an airframe without a powerplant.

The solution was Pratt & Whitney’s JT-12. However it would take four to power the JetStar. This would give the JetStar it’s signature engine arrangement. Like the VC-10 the JetStar has four engines podded at the rear of the aircraft. The JT-12 also would go on to power the other main Jet transport for the Airforce and Navy the North American Sabreliner. The original Orpheus Powered airplane N329J would be come Kelly Johnsons personal airplane while he was at Lockheed.

The L-329 entered commercial service in 1961. Sixteen JetStars would be produced for the USAF as the C-140. Five C-140As would be used as “Flight Inspection Aircraft” These aircraft would fly into bases to test their navigation aids and to check up on enlisted air traffic controllers. For more on that check out the May issue of Air and Space Magazine and the Article “Radar Love” Eleven more aircraft would be purchased by the USAF as C-140Bs. These actually were delivered before the Alphas because of the lack of electronics. Six of the eleven would be used by the 89th Military Airlift Wing at Andrew’s Air Force Base. They would be trimmed out with Light Blue and Blue and redesignated VC-140Bs These aircraft would fly until the mid 90’s as VIPs Often they would have the call sign “Air Force One” Both Canada and Germany would have similarly configured VIP Jetstars.

By the 1970’s fuel efficency and noise contributed to the third re-engining of the JetStar. This time the JT-12 turbojets were replaced by Garrett AiResearch TF731 bypass turbofans. The Turbofans also created a need to change the Slipper Fuel tanks. The modifications were so successful, Lockheed reopened the production line a produced 40 more L-1329s or JetStar IIs

Lyndon Johnson’s flight back to Texas when Richard Nixon took place on a VC-140B, and his Presidential Library, has one on display. The National Museum of the United States Air Force, has one it’s Presidential Aircraft collection that flew for 26 year and was retired to the Museum in 1987. During that 26 years it Flew Presidents, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. Another VC-140B is on a plinth in front of the Terminal at Andrews Air Force Base.

The most famous Civilian Jetstar is November 777EP or Hound Dog II A TF731 powered JetStar owned by Elvis Preseley. He purchased the JetStar when his Convair 880 was delayed. Hound Dog II is now on display next to the CV-880 at Graceland, in Memphis TN.

The JetStar was the first Biz Jet to enter service and carried Princes and Presidents. Besides they’re from Lockheed and they looked cool!