Friday, December 31, 2010

DC-3 (part 5) - smokejumping aircraft

According to McCalls Smokeumpers the DC-3 entered service as a smokejumper aircraft in 1944. For more on the McCall Smokejumpers go here and here. To see my earlier posts on smokejumping go here, you will need to scroll down to see the earliest posts (this article will be at the top).

In 1958, the California Smokejumpers first used the DC-3 .

The US Forest Service currently has two DC-3 smokejumper aircraft that have been converted to turbo props, for more information see this webpage. The two videos embedded here show the USFS turboprop DC-3.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

DC-3 (part 4) -- Last Time Reunion

Last summer, July 23 to 26 to be specific, there was a reunion of 30 DC-3's and C-47's dubbed "The Last Time" in Rock Falls Illinois. Their is a nice article in the AOPA Pilot (December 2010) on this reunion of DC-3's/C-47's in honor of their 75th birthday. It was the first article that I turned to when I got my copy in the mail. I am hoping that this article is still freely available, so I have linked to it. At least it was freely available several days ago (a good friend who is not an AOPA member checked on this for me.

In the video that I embedded here, you are seeing some DC-3 enroute from "The Last Time" reunion to the EAA gathering in OshKosh. Enjoy!

DC-3 engine sound (part 3)
embed code:

You gotta love those round engines!

Monday, December 27, 2010


As I write this, the Mid-Atlantic States are cleaning up after a nor'easter. The snow is gone but the winds remain. The winds have been around 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 35 to 40 mph in my region. Some of you may have heard about the snow fall amounts in portions of NJ, with upwards of 2 feet and then some in some portions of NJ. Many of us in western NJ escaped wit somewhere between 4 and 8 inches. I give a range because the blowing snow precludes measuring the snow.

I don't want to post a video from one of the NY/NJ news outlets. Too depressing. Rather my "snow" story for today involves the winds and my snow blower.

I'll start with a friend who came by in the wee hours and helped us out by plowing out the detritus left by the snow plows on the street. This helped a lot, believe me. But I still had the portion in the back of the house by my garage to take care of with my snow blower. Taking a lesson from my blog writings, aviation ground school, and flying, I gave thought to the winds. I found myself thinking that any pilot has to know the direction and wind speed before flying. Winds affect a pilot's choice of runways. If there is one runway (runway 4-22 for example), And if the wind is blowing across that runway, known as a cross wind, a strong enough cross wind will ground you. With this in mind, I thought about the task at hand, using my snow blower to plow out the rest of my driveway on a very windy day.

Knowing the direction that the wind was blowing was not exactly rocket science because all I had to do was to look out the windy and see the wind blown snow to know that the winds were coming from the north west. And I was using a snow blower not going flying. The worse that would happen to me with my snow blower is that I'd end up with snow in my face and down the front of my jacket. Which did happen, but only once or twice.

I knew that this time, in order to prevent the snow from coming out the chute of my snow blower and being blown back to the area I was plowing, I knew that I had to move the snow blower chute when I changed direction.

I finished plowing the back of my driveway in about 30 to 45 minutes. At least I got much of the snow off. And yes, some snow is back on my driveway. And I'll deal with that, if necessary, after the winds die down.

I hope to run my posts about the DC-3 with my next post this Wednesday.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Shepard

The Shepard by Fredric Forsyth as told by "Fireside Al: Alan Maitland and broadcast on CBC radio. This is a nice aviation related Christmas story.

This video was posted by someone who was listening to The Shepard on his car radio on December 22, 2006. The show starts with an interview with Fredric Forsyth.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

About the DC-3 (part 2)

The first of the Douglas passenger aircraft, known as the DC-1 had its inaugural flight on July 1, 1933 and was delivered to TWA on September 13, 1933. Carrying up to 12 passenger, it could fly up to 180 mph. In April 1935, she set a transcontinental speed record, from Los Angeles CA to New York, in 11 hours and five minutes.

Prior to accepting delivery of the DC-1, TWA placed an order with Douglas for 25 of the new and improved version, the DC-2. The first DC-3 flew on December 17, 1935. The DC-3 could flew across country with only refueling stop. There were a couple of military versions of the DC-3, the most common being the C-47, that served as troop transports, paratrooper transports, and utility transports during WW II. Post-war, the DC-3 continued in service, including but not limited to service for smoke jumpers. The DC-3 continues in service today.

For more on the history of the DC-3 and the earlier DC-1 and DC-2, go here and here.

Specifications of the Douglas DC-3

Powerplants: 2 895 kW (1200 hp) Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp 14 cylinder twin row radial piston engines, or 2 895 kW (1200 hp) Wright Cyclone nine cylinder radials.
wing span: 95 ft 0 in
length: 64 ft 5 in
height: 16 ft 4 in
empty weight: 17,720 lbs.
maximum take-off gross weight: 28,000 lbs.
Performance: Max speed 346 km/h (187 kt), economical crusing speed 266 km/h (143 kt). Initial rate of climb 1130 ft/min. Max range 2420 km (1307 nautical miles), range with max payload 563 km (305 nautical miles).
Capacity: Flight crew of two. Seating for between 28 and 32 passengers at four abreast or 21 three abreast.

Stay tuned for more about this magnificent aircraft.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A belated 75th birthday to the DC-3

The DC-3 turned 75 on Friday December 17, 2010. Stay tuned for more on this magnificent aircraft in a couple of days. Video courtesy of AOPA Live.

History of Aviation (3 of 3)

History of Aviation (part 3) -- types and applications of military aircraft in 1961 -- produced by the Department of Defense. For more details on this video, go to this FedFlix page.

My embedding the video here does not imply that the author, producer. publisher or anyone else endorses my use of the History of Aviation Part 3.

Friday, December 17, 2010

History of Aviation (2 of 3)

History of Aviation from the Billy Mitchell era through 1961, produced by the Department of Defense. For more details on this video, go to this FedFlix page.

My embedding the video here does not imply that the author, producer. publisher or anyone else endorses my use of the History of Aviation Part 2.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

History of Aviation (1 of 3)

I found this three part series on the History of Aviation (through 1961), produced by the Department of Defense, while browsing through FedFlix the other day. I thought that you might enjoy it, so I am going to share it with you. Part 1 takes you from the first flight with the Wright Brothers through the Billy Mitchell era. For details on this film, see this fed flix page

My embedding the video here does not imply that the author, producer. publisher or anyone else endorses my use of the History of Aviation Part 1.

Allow about 30 minutes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Aerodynamics is important

When I was in ground school last winter, the first thing we covered on the first night was aerodynamics. At the time, I was gaining an appreciation for the importance of aerodynamics, and it was not just because I needed to have a knowledge of aerodynamics to pass the FAA"s written Private Pilot exam.

For example, I spent some time learning about stalls. One of the things a pilot is supposed to know in order to pass the practical (flying) portion of the FAA examination process leading to a private pilot's certificate is how to recover from a stall.

I have already written that it is unlikely that I may never get a pilot's certificate but that doesn't stop me from learning all that I can about aviation and flying. And to that end, one of the things that I have that I have seen on a few of my scenic flights involve watching the pilot demonstrate stalls. They talk about what they are doing and made sure I knew what the aircraft was doing (stall horn and vibrations in the wings). And they both made sure that I understood how they got out of a stall by lowering the nose and/or increasing thrust.

Then there was learning about weight and balance in ground school so as to not overload the aircraft. Here I did many practice problems that helped drive home the point of proper weight and balance of an aircraft.

Up until a few days ago, I hadn't given much thought to aerodynamics. That changed recently. I'll try to explain.

The other day as I doing some background research for an upcoming series of articles on the B-17 (to post in January), I realized again how important aerodynamics is. This time it was about how aerodynamics affect airplane design. I was wondering what factors affect the speed at which an airplane flies, but I was only thinking about thrust so I was missing a kep point. One of my pilot friends gently reminded me about drag because there are things that can be done to reduce drag in designing aircraft. Reducing drag means a faster aircraft.

So, I am revisiting aerodynamics and reviewing the chapters on aerodynamics in the books I used in ground school. I read about drag, reread a chapter in the B-17 book I am reading, and asked my pilot friend another question about drag. The brain cells kicked in again. It is hard to explain, but I learned (again) how important aerodynamics is.

I knew that I wanted to write about this experience in today's article. But not being any kind of expert in aerodynamics, I wanted to find something simple to provide those of you who are not pilots with a context. So, I found this video that I am embedding here. It is a little old, but I think that it still provides a good overview of basic aerodynamics.

The video, How Airplanes Fly is available from Fed Flix here, and is in the public domain.

revised 5:50 PM, Dec. 13 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nice photo gallery of the wildfire in Israel

I always appreciate good photography, including but not limited to photography of wildfires. Over the almost two years that I have been writing about aerial wildland firefighting, I have seen a few wildfire related photo galleries from the Big Picture at I offer this photo gallery from the Big Picture telling a story about the recent wildfire in Israel. A couple of photos with graphic images have been blacked out. I enjoyed the photographs of the air tankers in action. I believe that you will see tankers from Israel, Russia, tanker 979 from the U.S., and some water scoopers (not quite sure where they are from).

But for me, this photo gallery is not just about fine photographs of airplanes. In some sense viewing and then posting the link to this photo gallery is also an act of prayer for those that lost their lives in this fire. And an act of remembrance that many people, responders and civilians, lose their lives in wildfires each year. 

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

NJ Forest Fire Service's new water tender - revisited

In late August, I wrote about the New Jersey Forest Fire Service's (NJFFS) new water tender (A 44)that I saw on display at a local 4H fair. I would think that this water tender may have been used on a fire by now, however I am not in a position to say this with any certainty.

I found this video on the NJFFS Section B-10 website and I thought that some of you might be interested. It is a slide show showing telling the pictorial story about the creation of the new water tender with the help of the Federal Excess Property Program.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Israel wildfire - under control

The wildfire in Israel that has burned at least 12,000 acres seems to be under control. Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today posted an article yesterday that may want to read. He summarized what happened to the C-130 MAFFS and the type 1 wildland firefighting crews that were not needed. He also includes some links to other media reports on the fire that you may want to check out.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Israel Wildfires - update #3

Progress is being made in fighting the wildfires in Israel!

Thanks to a tanker pilot friend who sent me a link to the Israel National News with a short article about the arrival of tanker 979 along with the video that I embedded here. Another tanker pilot friend sent me this link from Firehouse News reporting that tanker 979 has arrived in Israel.

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that tanker 979 made two runs today on the 12,000+ acre wildfire in Israel, dubbed as the Carmel Fire. I'd like to thank another friend who sent me a different article from the Jerusalem Post.

MSNBC has an article (from the Associated Press) on their website reporting that a senior fire official in Israel, Boaz Rakia, is saying that "the blaze under control, though it was unclear when it would be extinguished."

You will also want to see Wildfire Today where Bill Gabbert has reported early today about the progress made today, including a link to the same (or a similar)article from the Jerusalem Post that I linked to earlier. He is also reporting that because of today's progress, U.S. wildland fire fighting crews and resources are being held over in Boise until Monday when the situation will be reassessed.

Updated Dec. 5, 5:25 PM EST: I was just talking about Tanker 979 with someone on another forum who pointed out to me that Tanker 979 arrived in Israel around the time that progress was being made on the fire. I agreed with him that the locals seemed to be impressed by her performance. Tanker 979 will be hanging around for awhile as an insurance policy.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Israel Wildfire - update 2

The fire has consumed approximately 10,000 acres. Two suspects have been arrested in Israel, it appears that the fire may not be arson but rather "negligence.

Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today continues to report on the wildfire and has a couple of maps of the area where the fire is burning, some details about the C-130s being sent by the US, the arrival time of the Evergreen 747 supertanker, wildfire fighting crews being sent by the U.S., and at least one line of duty death (one being a 16-year old volunteer fire fighter), go here for today's post. CNN has a report on their website along with a photo gallery here.

Israel Wildfires - update #1

Here are some pictures of the wildfire in Israel from MSNBC along with an article.

California Fire News is reporting that the U.S. is doing the following to help Israel: the US Dept. of Defense is sending five C-130 MAFFS (2 from the U.S. bases in Europe theatre and 3 from the U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard; fire retardant and foam; and a team of wildland fire fighters. The C-130 MAFFS and Evergreen's 747 Supertanker will join a tankers and helos from other countries some of whom are already on scene.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Wildfires in Israel

A 7,000 acre wildfire in Israel is in its second day. The Washington Post is reporting that Forty-two people have died. Bill Gabbert of wildfire today reports that Evergreen is sending its 747 supertanker to assist in the aerial assault.

A slideshow from the Washington Post may be found here. The wildland fire hotlist forums has a thread devoted to these fire that may be found here.

Sunfish Pond Fire Redux

I have been meaning to write about the Sunfish Pond Fire, that burned 250 acres in early August. You may recall that I last wrote about the Sunfish Pond Fire on Sept 6, 2010, where I wrote about a scenic flight I took over Sunfish Pond.

For those of you who keep track of such things, the date on the image from Google Earth (above) is August 30, 2010. I recognized the burn area from the aerial photographs I took in mid-August. The area circled in blue is the approximate location of the start of the Sunfish Pond Fire. The red line is the Appalachian Trail (available as an overlay for Google Earth).

Sometime in mid August, I took a hike up the Douglas Trail (see the pin in the image above) where it ends at the Appalachian Trail on the ridge. I climbed about 1,000 feet in approximately 1.5 miles. Roughly 1/3rd of the way into the hike, I ran into what seemed to be evidence of a fire. As I continued up the trail, it became clear to me that this was probably the Sunfish Pond Fire. For much of the hike, the burn area was only on one side of the trail. The first two images below were taken on the hike up to the ridge and the last was on the hike down.

A few days after my hike I had a conversation with someone at the Worthington State Forest. I wanted to know if the burned area that I saw during my hike on the Douglas Trail was indeed the area burned by the Sunfish Pond Fire. It was. About three weeks later I got a copy of a map of the hiking trails in Worthington State Forest where someone with an approximation of the boundaries of the fire drawn on the map. Also indicated on this map was the approximate location of the start of the fire.

Between the map that I got from from Worthington State Forest, my own hike up to the ridge on the Douglas Trail, and other accounts of the fire, I was able to do a very crude outline of a portion of the burn area on the topo map (using an overlay available for Google Earth) below. It is not meant to be an accurate depiction of the outline of the burned area. Rather, my intent is to give those of you who are not familiar with this area of NJ and idea of what fire fighters from the NJ Forest Fire Service were up against. As you can see, it is steep. You can't really tell from the image below, but the fire was located in a remote and difficult to access area on the ridge.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

dancing planes

Time for something beautiful. I came across this video yesterday. A tanker pilot friend of mine told me that the aircraft are Mirage 2000, French Air Force.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Flying with Ernest Gann

Well, not actually "flying" with Ernest Gann, but flying through Gann's writing.

I expect that some of you are familiar with Ernest Gann. He was a pilot and an author, writing several novels including but not limited to The High and the Mighty. I was first introduced to Ernest Gann through a collection of aviation writings that I read over a year ago. There were two excerpts in this collection, including a chapter from his autobiography, Fate is the Hunter. I have a copy of Fate is the Hunter, that I have not yet finished reading. It isn't that I don't want to finish the book, rather I get a book on airplanes out of my local library. So I put down Fate is the Hunter to read those books. One of these days, I won't be reading a library book and will finish Fate is the Hunter. And when I do I'll offer some reflections here.

I got curious about some of Gann's aviation novels and went to my local library about six weeks ago and took out a copy of The High and the Mighty. Some of you may be familiar the movie of the same name starring John Wayne and Robert Stack. By the way, for those of you who are Airplane! fans, Robert Stack played Captain Rex Kramer. It was Rex Kramer who talked Ted Striker down after he took over for the pilot's who were stricken by food poisoning.

The novel takes you through an aviation disaster scenario in the early 1950s of a commercial trans-pacific flight from Hawaii to San Francisco. Just past the point where the plane can turn around and get back to Hawaii they lose an engine.

It is not the disaster scenario that intrigued me, it is Gann's depiction of the cockpit crew and the operations of the fictional commercial airliner. He took me in the cockpit of an early 1950s airliner, probably one of the Dougs. There were simple things like running through a check list that transcend time. Also timeless is the interactions between the three pilots and the navigator including the private ruminations of each.Then there was the description of the navigators duties including getting star fixes looking up at the sky through a small dome over the navigators table in the cockpit. I believe that modern avionics have made the role of the navigator mostly obsolete.

For any of you who have not read anything by Ernest Gann, and are interested in aviation writing, I'd urge you to go to your library and check out any of Ernest Gann's aviation based novels. By the way, the book was published in the early 1950s, there may still be some copies available at a price through various online sources. I opted to keep it simple and get a copy from my library

From time to time, I'll write about some of the aviation books that I have read.