Monday, October 27, 2008

More Museum Photos

I know I promised to continue the "Where can we go from here" series last time, but I haven't decided exactly what to do with it yet. So instead, I'll respond to a reader's e-mail lamenting the lack of Corsairs in the previous museum photo spreads:

Palm Springs Air Museum's Corsair.

The carrier hangar deck display at Planes of Fame has a Corsair; its tail appears in the previous picture of their TBM. Here's the nose; the tail and wing on the left belong to their Dauntless.

Here's another Dauntless. This particular aircraft was recovered from Lake Michigan. The Dauntless was peculiar among carrier-based aircraft in that it did not have folding wings.

Made famous by Chennault's Flying Tigers: the P-40 Warhawk
(aka Tomahawk and Kittyhawk in British colors)

The Bell P-39 Airacobra

The P-63 Kingcobra was the follow-on model, most easily distinguished by its taller tail.

Seversky P-35, predecessor to the . . .

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Earlier models of the P-47, like the P-51 and F4U, had 'razorback' canopies, which restricted rearward visibility.

Later versions were equipped with bubble canopies, a British innovation.

The British innovation, on a British aircraft: a later model Spitfire.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random Thoughts

Time for some assorted and random thoughts that have passed through my mind. Or more to the point, didn't pass all the way through, but instead got stuck halfway across. Fans of LAX airplane chat and pictures can come back next time, when I may resume the "Where can we go from here" series.

Thanks to my dad, I'm listening to Christmas music as this is written. Having said that, I can't elaborate on this any further at this time. Not that it matters: You can go into either Home Depot and Lowes and hear Christmas music too. They've been playing it for a few weeks now - I bet their employees are already sick of it.

We're having another mini-heat wave, once again in aggravating synch with my days off. As such, instead of tending to any one of the approximately 2,694,527 chores that I've been putting off, I was out and about this afternoon and listening to KCRW, one of our local NPR stations. During one of the program breaks, I heard an underwriting announcement, which is nothing new - but what got my attention was that it was promoting the city of Houston, Texas. I've only heard the promo once, but as a native Houstonian, my immediate impression was embarrassment. The gist of the announcement was that Houston occupies a huge amount of space: the promo reeled off a list of about a half-dozen other major US cities that combined take up less area than Houston. I'm not sure what the point was, but I don't think the listening public is going to think better of Houston for this.

From whence came the so-called 30-second rule? I think my introduction to this concept came in my years in the scouts. For those unacquainted with the idea, the 30-second rule says that if you drop something, usually a piece of food, on the ground or floor, and pick it up again within 30 seconds, it won't have had time to get dirty or contaminated. As I learned it, you have to orally invoke the 30-second rule in order for it to be effective. For those skeptics among my readership, I've also heard of the much more conservative five-second rule. In my current living situation, there are times that even the five-second rule seems dodgy - I find cat hair on stuff even before it hits the floor.

Yesterday, I was helping a neighbor with the vent hose on her clothes dryer. At one point, I made a trip to the plumbing section of the local hardware store. Once there, I was reminded of something I had first encountered a month or two ago: How did golf balls become the measure of a toilet's effectiveness? Several of the new toilets on display had placards touting their ability to flush buckets of golf balls. Who came up with this idea? And how did it come about? Picture the antics that must have taken place in the conference room of the marketing company who developed this concept. What other items did they consider before settling upon golf balls? And who was the lucky stiff whose job it was to test them? I started to research this on line, but got no further than this Wikipedia entry:

Speaking of her clothes dryer reminds me of what, besides just the sheer lack of space, I miss most about not living in a house right now: The lack of laundry facilities. Oh sure, we have a small laundry here in the park, but it's not the same as having your own washer and dryer. Several times I've found myself in some store looking at the laundry appliances on display with longing - much as others might ogle new cars or widescreen TV's. Thanks to one of the cats barfing all over it, I've got the new bedspread in one of the laundromat dryers right now. I need to make sure to go and fetch it before they lock up at nine. He couldn't have barfed on the old bedspread last week.

And speaking of cats. I seem to have been adopted by one here in the park. Where she (I think) came from, I've no idea. I was out working with the roses a few weeks ago and discovered that I had a helper following me around, weaving amongst the pots, playing with my shoelaces and otherwise being generally useful. She's become a regular, appearing pretty much anytime I step outside. The first time I saw her she had a collar, but it's gone now. She must be or have been somebody's - no stray I've ever encountered has been this friendly from the very start. The inside cats are fascinated and always gather to watch out the screen door; once or twice she's almost come in when I've opened it. Although I think she may be still a kitten, I'm not ready for the level of excitement that would cause. I've been talking with my neighbor about how we could get some of the regular local strays fixed, but so far all we've done is talk about it. There's definitely a need: I'll bet we've had at least half a dozen litters of kittens in the park this summer.

Some time back I mentioned my annoyance with pigeons roosting on the top of my hangar doors: And here's the solution:

I just finished reading Flights of Passage: Recollections of a World War II Aviator, by Samuel Hynes. Hynes was a Marine TBM Avenger pilot in the Pacific during the last year of the war. I mention this because he mentions the Japanese Baka bomb, an example of which I showed previously in the museum photo spread:

"I saw an attack happen only once while I was flying. I was out over the water west of the island, patrolling, when Ground Control reported that a Japanese bomber had just dropped a Baka bomb and that it was in flight somewhere between me and the island. (Baka means stupid or crazy in Japanese. A Baka bomb was a tiny suicide plane, powered by a rocket engine and carrying in its nose an armed bomb. It had no landing gear, no armor or defensive armament, no radio, and almost no instruments. It was carried into attack position by a bomber and dropped. The pilot then fired his rocket and flew the bomb into the largest enemy ship he could see. In a revetment near Yontan there was a captured Baka: stubby-winged, fragile-looking, like a toy. It made me sick to look at it. A machine for killing pilots.)

All three of the museums I visited have TBM Avengers, but none of them show particularly well in my pictures:

The green plane with D-Day invasion stripes is the Palm Springs Air Museum's TBM Avenger. Theirs is somewhat unusual, as it's painted in RAF colors: most Avengers in this country are painted in blue U.S. Navy or Marine paint schemes. Thanks to the docents modeling between it and the adjacent T-6, you can see that it's a big airplane - it normally flew with a crew of three.
An example of the customary naval blue scheme: the Planes of Fame TBM,
displayed in their simulated aircraft carrier hangar deck.

The Yanks Air Museum's TBM is currently in their restoration shop.

Here's another shot of the Baka bomb. The aircraft next to it is an F6F Hellcat.
If you look at the museum entry again, the Hellcat appears in the second photo:
It's the one closest to the camera.

Gratuitous P-51 picture. The car in the foreground is a 1940(?) Studebaker Commander. Next to the Commander, reflected in the hubcap, is a 1941 Chevrolet Special Deluxe sedan. I mention this because the rear of the Chevrolet appears in the museum entry photo of the intact T-33. Ironically, one of the blog comments asked about the car in that shot, and I had tried hard not to include the cars in any of my photos. Next time I'll take pictures of the cars instead - it'll probably be easier! The other ironic thing about this picture is that while it was clearly taken at the Palm Springs Air Museum, the lettering beneath the Mustang's cockpit says "Planes of Fame" - which museum is in Chino. Admitedly, Planes of Fame has no shortage of P-51's on display - I can remember at least three. Here's one:
And another:And one more:Interesting coincidence: All of these were shot from the right side


Since I first started on this article last night, I've heard another Houston promo on the radio. This one claimed that the yearly average temperature in Houston is 68 degrees farenheit, and went on to say that there were year-round recreational opportunities. What they neglected to mention is that while the average temperature may be 68, it rarely is actually 68 degrees at any time of the day when a person would find it useful. Another missing tidbit was the fact that usually the humidity makes the average temperature almost a moot point. I imagine that most of the recreational opportunities the actual Houstonian engages in take place indoors - in the air conditioning.

About the lucky stiff whose job it was to test golf balls in toilets: A later search led me to this article:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Yesterday's entry with the A380 pix was a bit hurried, as the iBook's battery doesn't seem to have the duration that it once did. If you've already seen it, I've since added captions for the photos. This is Qantas' first A380; they expect to have three by the end of the year. Qantas has configured their A380 for a capacity of 450 passengers, a good deal less than the touted standard three-class seating capacity of 525, and almost half of the maximum density capacity of 853. Here's a link to Qantas' press release:

Qantas is the third carrier to put the A380 into revenue service; Singapore was the launch customer, and Emirates was the second. The Emirates A380 made a special visit to Los Angeles earlier this year to promote their new service from LA to Dubai, which will begin next week. I've heard, however, that they will initially fly the route using B777's instead of the A380. I'll let you know next week.

Meanwhile, Airbus has confirmed that they're working on a stretched version of the A380 which will be about 20 feet longer and have a three-class seating capacity of 650, or a maximum density capacity of 900. This stretch (to about 260 feet long) would make the A380-900 the longest commercial aircraft in production, a position currently held by the Airbus A340-600, which at 247 feet is about eight feet longer than the current A380-800's 239 feet. In comparison, the B747-400 is a measly 232 feet long, although the upcoming B747-8 will be about 251 feet long.

I haven't changed the museum entry, but will add that while I didn't specify where they were taken, the photos represent three museums: Planes of Fame and the Yanks Air Museum, both at the Chino airport, as well as the Palm Springs Air Museum.

That's all for now -

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Qantas A380 arrives

After years of anticipation, yesterday saw the arrival of the first Airbus A380 in regular scheduled service at LAX. Qantas flight 93 from Melbourne arrived a little before 7:30 in the morning. After unloading and servicing the aircraft, it was towed over to the Imperial Terminal on the south side of the field for some festivities. Also on hand for the show was John Travolta's B707, which is painted in the scheme of Qantas' first jetliner. As I had had the mid-shift that morning, I didn't stick around for all of the show-and-tell stuff. It was a gray and overcast morning, not ideal for pictures, but here are a few:

Gate 101 at the International Terminal is one of two at that terminal that have been reconfigured to accommodate the A380. Here, the tug is being hooked up for the final 100 feet or so to the gate. This is procedure is not limited to the big Airbus; most other heavies also get towed onto this gate, as they do for most other gates at LAX. There are, so far, four gates at LAX set up for the big Airbus: the two at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), and another two out at the west remote gates. The remote gates are gates in name only - they're really nothing more than hardstands with jetways that lead down to bus stops. Passengers get bussed to and from the TBIT. The long-term plan is to add more gates to the west side of the TBIT. There's also talk that Virgin Atlantic wants to bring their A380's to terminal two or three.

John Travolta's B707. As you can tell from the lighting, I actually took this shot the evening before, while the airplane was still on Atlantic Aviation's ramp. Later, it was towed over to the Imperial Terminal ramp for the inaugural festivities.

In this shot, the A380 is now in position at gate 101, and unloading has begun. For a sense of scale, look at the ground crew and vehicles. That's a B767 in the alley.

The International Terminal, with Terminal Four in the foreground. The A380 is on the corner (gate 101); the other Qantas jet at gate 104 is a B747, which arrived a few minutes before the Airbus. You can just see the top of the tail of another Qantas B747 parked at gate 41. That American tail sticking up next to it is the B767 in the previous photo. On the opposite side is an MD80 at gate 40, and a B757 at gate 42A.

Another comparison shot, actually taken while the A380 was still being pulled onto the gate, shows an MD80 waiting to leave the alley. That tail on the far left is a B767.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A day at the museums

One of my favorite things about living in southern California is the plethora of aviation museums within day trip distance. There's one in Palm Springs, and two more in Chino. March Air Force base in Riverside has one, and there's another in San Diego. I believe there's one at Edwards as well, and quite likely others I'm not aware of (yet). I'm a member of the first three, and recently made a day of visiting them. I love going to air museums - I can spend hours wandering around and looking at details of some plane or other. This can be tiresome for any friend who's along, as they'll have been through the entire museum twice, only to find that I've never made it beyond the first exhibit.

Getting good pictures of an airplane inside an air museum is virtually impossible. By dint of their sizes and shapes, airplanes are difficult to arrange inside enclosed spaces. Collections of flyable aircraft are somewhat better, since they have to be moved about from time to time. Even so, they end up crammed together; linemen call it 'stacking the hangar'. It's safe to say that shooting them inside the museum limits you to snapshots. I've got plenty of examples, and here are some:

This shot demonstrates the problem: It was impossible to get a clean shot of the Lightning. It's too big to shoot up close, but there's no way to avoid the clutter in the background - or foreground.

Another difficulty in photographing aircraft is that it's hard to establish a sense of scale. Here, the Jeep gives you some idea of how big a P-47 really is.
That green thing in the foreground is a German V1 buzz bomb.

This has gotta be one of the ugliest planes I saw. I think it started as an F9F, already not the prettiest of aircraft, and the camera nose adds a magnitude of ugly.

No Harvey, it's not a Twin Beech. This is a Lockheed model 12 Electra Junior, a smaller version of the aircraft Amelia Earhart flew to oblivion.

This is a Japanese Baka bomb. Before today's smart bombs, this was how you gave your bomb intelligence: you put a suicide pilot in it for a one-way trip.
The irony of this photo is the sign on the wall.

As big as the WWII fighters were, the Cold War jet fighters were larger still. Why they had a Bellanca Super Viking parked next to the Convair Delta Dart, I don't know, but it helps to give an impression of the size. Not too many of the Century-Series jet fighters survive - most flew their final flights as target drones for air-to-air missiles. A similar fate has befallen many of the Vietnam-era jets as well. On the other hand, what else could you do with one? Unlike surplus jeeps or trucks, but much like tanks and howitzers, there's really not much these things are good for outside of their military roles.

How do you get the engine out of a jet fighter?
In the case of a T-33 or P-80, you take the whole tail half of the aircraft off.

This is what a T-33 normally looks like.

Another museum, another P-38. This one still flies.

A real Zero - and the only Zero in the world that flies with its original engine.

The ubiquitous Stearman. My friend Harvey has one of these. Nonconformist that he is, his isn't yellow or sky blue. Actually, these pictures are for his saintly wife, who must have the patience of two or three Jobs. Theresa - this is what it looks like when it's assembled!

Harvey has one of these, too. I'm not sure Theresa's ever seen it in one piece, either.

Lest you think Harvey's the only one collecting museum pieces, I've got two of these.
Neither of them is, or will ever be, green.

However, in the contest of which one of us has the coolest toy, he's currently in the lead with one of these engine hoists - I don't have anything to compare.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Personal Note

It's October 15th, a date with some significance for me. Yes, it's the day after the full moon. And the day of the final debate between the two main presidential candidates. But more germane to this entry is that it's also my brother's birthday. I used to call him my little brother, until in his teens he grew about a half-foot taller than me - just as our mother had warned me he would ("You need to be nice to him" she'd say, "he'll be bigger than you someday"). Come to think of it, this lends credence to the suspicion shared by my sister and I that maybe he wasn't really related to us . . .

As kids, he was always stuck with the role of being my little brother, with all the unrealistic expectations associated with that. Everyone, it seemed, expected him to be just like me and do as I did. He suffered this way until he went to a school where no one had ever heard of me. Although not a star student, this was the first chance he'd had to be someone other than my little brother. He proceeded to pursue other interests and do quite well on his own. Coincidentally, this was roughly around the time when we actually started to get along - sometimes.

His death some six years ago was unfortunately coincidental with my arriving at LAX, having just moved from New Orleans. Since that time, I've been attempting to get reassigned somewhere closer to the family home in Texas, with no real success. He was the one who had some real mechanical ability, and it was regularly needed to keep the machinery on the farm running. Have you ever tried to fix a brush hog over the phone?

One of my contributions to the social welfare is that I'm a regular blood donor. For the last several years, I've made it a point to donate on this date in memory of my brother. Through the inadvertent assistance of an up-and-coming supervisor at work, who cancelled my scheduled overtime shift for today,
this year was no exception. There's another neat coincidence in this: By donating today, my next date of eligibility is December 10th - my father's birthday.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Where can we go from here: Additions and Corrections

In an earlier entry, I mentioned several cities that only receive cargo flights from LAX. Since then, I've worked an overtime day shift during the week, and found a couple more:

Toledo, Ohio, is a cargo-only destination from LAX. The route is flown by Air Transport, using DC-8's. Flight time is about three and a half hours.

Another cargo flight to Brussels: Singapore Cargo lifts off from runway 25 right.

In the same posting about cargo operators, I mentioned that Fedex flies out of here to hubs in Memphis, Indianapolis, and San Jose. The first two are correct, but Fedex's west coast hub is actually in Oakland. Mea culpa. If you want to get to San Jose, you'll have lots of passenger options: American Eagle, Skywest, and Southwest all offer jet service from here to there (and back again). Flight times run from forty-five minutes to an hour. Skywest and Southwest also go into Oakland; those flights seem to run about fifty to fifty-five minutes.

In addition, I said that the Fedex flight to Fort Worth Alliance is usually done with an Airbus. So naturally, this week they had to do it with a DC-10:
A Fedex DC-10 departs off runway 25 left. On the parallel taxiway in the background is an Eva Cargo MD-11. The MD-11 was the follow-on model. Obvious differences are the MD-11's longer length and winglets. Less obvious in this picture is the MD-11's much better climb performance.

Speaking of DC-10s, a while back I mentioned former Northwest Airlines DC-10s that had been retired only to re-enter service with ATA for their military charters. Here are a couple of shots I discovered in a back corner of the iBook's hard drive:

As you can see, the transformations were not full-fledged makeovers.

One more ATA shot from the archives. ATA was the last scheduled US carrier to operate the Lockheed Tristar, my personal favorite of the first generation wide bodies. This was the last Tristar to show up here, sometime last year.