Friday, January 31, 2014

Wait a Minute? January is Over?

I just got used to the idea that the holidays were over. Now I realize that for all intents and purposes, January of 2014 is in the books. Over. Fini. Finished...

I know it wasn't a short month. 31 days. While in the midst of it, it did not seem to be going by all that fast. But it's over. Where the heck did it go?

Ah well. C'est la vie.

The photo (from c w's Friday Open Road, of course) was, based on certain clues, taken somewhere in Poland. Seems to be part of an advertisement. You can see the whole thing over at c w's.

Now I love this photo. I think I've mentioned (once or twice) my love of the four seasons we get up here in New England. New fallen snow is something I love seeing. Provided there isn't too much of it, I don't have to go anywhere in it, I don't have to shovel it and the power stays on. That last bit is very important to me. Went without power and heat for three days last February. Sucked it did. But that was a very rare occurrence. (Knock on wood. As for that, picture me tapping myself on the head...)

Another comment I wanted to make about the photo concerns the "Polishness" of it. My hometown had a lot of Poles when I was growing up there. One of my good friends parents I think actually came over from the old country as kids. Still had a lot of relatives there. And remember this was in the "bad old days" when Poland was part of the Warsaw Pact. An unwilling member I must add, for the Poles have always loved freedom. (Hell, these guys fought Nazi tanks from horseback, sort of. A story I'll regale you with someday. For Polish cavalry has a long and distinguished history.)

At any rate, my buddy Justin once invited me to a family gathering for some relatives visiting from the old country. He warned me that most of them spoke no English at all. Then he told me that all I needed to know was one word: piwo. Which is Polish for "beer".

Well, I was somewhat hesitant. For these were the days before I became a world traveler and had lots of experience rubbing shoulders with folks from cultures other than my own.

Nevertheless, I went to the gathering. As soon as I trotted out my one word in Polish, the party began.

For in addition to being a land of brave men and beautiful women, the Poles know how to party. Oh boy, do they know how to party!

The Friday Flyby - 31 January

B-24 Witchcraft, operated by the Collings Foundation
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber. The B-24 was used in World War II by several Allied air forces and navies, and by every branch of the American armed forces during the war, attaining a distinguished war record with its operations in the Western European, Pacific, Mediterranean, and China-Burma-India Theaters.

Often compared with the better-known Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 was a more modern design with a higher top speed, greater range, and a heavier bomb load; it was also more difficult to fly, with heavy control forces and poor formation-flying characteristics. Popular opinion among aircrews and general staffs tended to favor the B-17's rugged qualities above all other considerations in the European Theater. The placement of the B-24's fuel tanks throughout the upper fuselage and its lightweight construction, designed to increase range and optimize assembly line production, made the aircraft vulnerable to battle damage. The B-24 was notorious among American aircrews for its tendency to catch fire. Its high fuselage-mounted "Davis wing" also meant it was dangerous to ditch or belly land, since the fuselage tended to break apart. Nevertheless, the B-24 provided excellent service in a variety of roles thanks to its large payload and long range and was the only bomber to operationally deploy the United States' first forerunner to precision-guided munitions during the war, the 1,000 lb. Azon guided bomb.

The B-24's most infamous mission was the low-level strike against the Ploiești oil fields, in Romania on 1 August 1943, which turned into a disaster because the enemy was underestimated, fully alerted and attackers disorganized.

The B-24 ended World War II as the most produced heavy bomber in history. At over 18,400 units, half by Ford Motor Company, it still holds the distinction as the most-produced American military aircraft. - Wikipedia
The "other" bomber from the 8th Air Force, the B-24 Liberator made up roughly a third of the Mighty Eighth's heavy bomber strength (the other 2/3s were B-17s). The B-24 saw action in nearly every theater of World War II. There was even a version used by the Navy.

US Navy PB4Y Privateer

Note the single vertical stabilizer of the PB4Y as opposed to the twin-tail configuration of the B-24. I first learned of the Navy version while on a quest for WWII memorabilia in my home town back in the day. A guy who worked at the same factory as I brought me a Japanese sword (one of the mass produced ones, not a family heirloom) and pistol (Nambu Model 14).

After we had haggled over price (well, the Nambu was in the original holster and who knows what the sword could be worth) and eventually settled on a figure to his liking (which I bemoaned would destitute me and all of my descendants) we got to talking about how he acquired this items.

Seems he had been a Naval Aviator during the war (I immediately conjured up visions of carriers and Hellcats, but no. His job was less glamorous. But in many ways, very vital to the war effort.). He flew the PB4Y. Which caused my face to go blank. When he described the aircraft I remember thinking (much like Buck) "I had no ideer!" But it did exist and later that night after digging through the archives I knew what one looked like.

Maritime patrol. Over the Pacific. And yes, he told me, you needed buns of steel to fly those missions. Still do. Ask any P-3 (soon to be P-8) crewman about that!

The first time the B-24 popped up on my radar was when I read a book about the Ploești raid. (Note that Ploești is the old way to spell the name. The modern spelling is Ploiești. For those who care about such things. Also, try as I might, I can't recall the name of the book. Or find it on the web of world-wideness. There are many more books about this raid now than there were back then. Should still be in the archives, somewhere. Maybe it's still in The Olde Vermonter's basement. Oh yeah, I do believe that Ploești is pronounced ploh-yesht.)

Speaking of Ploești -

A B-24 Liberator called "Sandman" during a bomb run over the
Ploiești Astra Romana refinery during Operation Tidal Wave.

Yes, they went in low. Really low. After flying there from North Africa!

Libya to Romania
(and back!)

These guys redefined the term "low level"!

At least the bastards can't get under us!

Into the Fire and Fury

The price was high...

Wherever the Liberator flew, good men were lost...

Clarence Lokker's B-24
(The link has the full story.)

The One-Two Punch of the Mighty Eighth

The Warbirds of the Collings Foundation

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Politics and Religion

Lavacourt Sous la Neige
Claude Monet
Okay, so really, we're going to talk about politics? And religion? In the same post? Am I out of my freakin' mind?

No, not really, but sort of. To answer the first three questions. Probably, to answer the fourth.

I've been seeing these two particular topics pop up quite a bit lately in those blogs lined up over there along the starboard rail. What strikes me about nearly all of them is that both topics are intensely personal things. We all believe something (in both of those spheres) and, for the most part, have strong beliefs about both.

While I'm thinking of it, the lead-in painting by Monet was posted because after searching for some relevant graphic to start the post off with, I got so effing angry that I needed something to calm me down. Monet does that. So that's why we have Monet.

Want to know what I mean? Go to Google Images and search on "politics and religion" (or "religion and politics" if you prefer). If you don't find something in the results that pisses you off, you're just not paying attention. Regardless of your own beliefs, something will set you off. Trust me.

So the post is not about Monet. Though I really like his work, I don't know enough about it to discuss it intelligently. While lack of knowledge doesn't dissuade some people from talking and arguing about a subject as if they were experts. I'm not. All I have regarding Monsieur Monet's work is my opinion. Which is that he was a brilliant artist. Many people share that opinion. Which brings me to my next point.

Many (if not most) people have opinions regarding politics and religion. A small minority of those people think it's their duty to ram their opinions down everyone else's throat. I am not one of those people.

I may think that someone else's belief system is a bunch of crap. They may think the same of my own beliefs. C'est la vie! I'm not going to try and convert somebody to my beliefs and I would hope they would do me the courtesy of not inflicting their beliefs on me.

So what about politics? I think the government's job is to protect the citizenry, maintain the roads/rails/airports and pretty much leave us alone to do the rest. For that I am willing to chip in a reasonable portion of my pay. Note that I said reasonable. And I do not believe for one moment that any government anywhere has a right to a portion of my wages. It's something I'm willing to tolerate because (a) performing those things required for the common good can get expensive and (b) it's part of that whole "consent of the governed" thing.

By government I mean local, state and federal.

Local government should provide a police force to protect us from criminals and a department of public works to maintain the roads (to include plowing the streets in winter and filling in potholes) and collect the trash.

State government should fill in the gaps between towns and cities. Think state police and state highways.

Government at the federal level should protect us, via the military, from foreign criminals (which can be states like Nazi Germany or non-state organizations like Al Qaeda) and keep the roads and such maintained for interstate commerce. Treaties with other nations and such have one and only one reason, as part and parcel of protecting the citizenry of these here United States. If it doesn't do that, why would we want to get involved?

Now I'm not for isolationism. That just means waiting until the problem shows up on our territory or just offshore. Any potential enemy has to believe, deep in their twisted, evil brains, that harming one American, harms all Americans. You do so at your peril.

Kill one of us and we will kill all of you. That's what I like to call the Old AF Sarge Doctrine. Mess with the United States and you will be sorry.

My bottom line belief is that politics is a necessary evil and  that politics is a dirty business which attracts precisely the sort of person you don't want in politics, i.e., running the government. At any level! So yes, I am for term limits. I'm quite sure the Founding Fathers did not intend Congress to be a life long sinecure. Oh, and serve one term and get a retirement check for life? YHGTBSM! Get a real job.

What about religion? I have a certain set of beliefs which probably don't quite align with any standard doctrine. I am a Christian yet I do not believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God. Sorry but there are just too many logical inconsistencies and much that smacks of some priesthood trying to control the rabble. (Which isn't necessarily a bad thing mind you.)

The Good Lord gave us a brain and I do believe He expects us to use it. Not take someone else's word for it. Too many fanatics will listen to some idiot prophet and the next thing you know people are dying. People who probably just want to be left alone.

Too many people are far too willing to take someone else's word for it. The Crusades immediately spring to mind as something that was a bad idea. But all those well-armed medieval types had to do something to take their minds off exploiting the peasants and slaughtering each other, didn't they?

That's all I've got to say on those two topics. As always YMMV (your mileage may vary).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

SOTU 2014 [Stifles a Yawn]

I have a confession to make.

I didn't watch the State of the Union address last night. In fact I didn't watch any television last night. (Unless you count watching The Sopranos on the computer via DVD as "television". Which I don't.)

Last year I didn't watch it either. I reread that post earlier today, as did a handful of other people, no doubt folks who Googled "State of the Union" and wound up here. I wonder what their reactions were on landing here? (Hence this year's title refers to the "event" as "SOTU". Don't want any serious folk winding up here by mistake. Or do we?)

Last year's excuse for not watching was that a blizzard had been through the week before and had somehow fried my DirecTV box (no doubt when the power went down, after surging a couple of times - for three days. Yes, that did suck. Thank you for asking.)

This year, no blizzard. I also noted that last year's State of the Union was in mid February, this year's in late January. (For those not paying attention as to what day it is. And yes, that is directed at all my retired friends. I hate you all and can't wait to be just like you!)

According to Article II (Which created the Executive Branch of the Federal Government), Section 3 (Presidential Responsibilities) of the U.S. Constitution, which states -
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
The underlined bit covers the State of the Union. Note that there is no set time or periodicity for this information to be rendered unto Congress. (And to the rest of us, if we bother to watch.)

Nowhere in the Constitution is there anything about the other Party having to "answer" the President's message to Congress. I'm not sure when that sad practice was started. Probably sometime in the Sixties when I believe that all this "fairness", "it takes a village" and "everybody gets a trophy" crap started. (Well, maybe not exactly then. But the seed had been planted somewhere in that decade. Don't get me wrong, a lot of good came from that decade. But a lot of gross idiocy as well. Maybe it was the drugs. I dunno...)

I thought the rebuttal bit was stupid when the President was a Republican and I think it's stupid now. But what's worse is when the talking heads take over to tell us what the President and the rebuttal person just said. Based on recent evidence, I know most voters are abysmally stupid. But really, you need somebody to tell you what somebody just told you? Seriously?

Of course, it's all a crock of bovine excrement anyway. Many of us don't bother to watch it but some will (as I did) read the transcript the day after. So we can avoid all the clapping and collective nonsense which occurs at these affairs regardless of which party is currently screwing up the country in power.

The problem is that a rather large majority of the voting populace will just go with what the media tells them he said. Or worse, they'll listen to so-called celebrities gush about what he said and take that as Gospel-truth.

I am amazed at the lies and meaningless crap that is contained in this latest pResidential outburst. I often wonder what it would sound like translated into Italian and delivered from a balcony in Rome while wearing a comic-opera uniform. (I thought about saying "translated into German and delivered with a guttural Austrian accent" but no. That particular individual was a seriously evil a$$hole. No way can our current Clown Prince compare to that evil bastard. Il Duce seems closer to his style.)

Now don't get me wrong. I find what most politicians say (regardless of Party affiliation) to be full of outright lies, carefully slanted statistics and twisted half-truths. It's just that the current holder of the Office of the Presidency seems to revel in it.



Panem et circenses. It has me worried.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hobbies, We Have Them

The other day I mentioned flight simulators. FRaVMotC* Juvat asked me in the comments what my simulator of choice was.

Here's the answer: The IL-2 Sturmovik Series. Hands down.

For realism in the terrain, weather effects and flight model, I've not seen a better flight sim.

Oh wait, yes I have.

But that one is a bit out of the ordinary jagdflieger** wanna-be's price range.

Yeah, the Super Hornet sim the Navy operates out at Naval Air Station Lemoore is pretty sweet. (Honestly though, the graphics outside the cockpit are better in IL-2. Seriously! They're just not wrap-around 360 degrees in IL-2. But they could be. More on that down below. Probably. Unless I forget. Or digress...)

But I don't have everyday access to that lovely beast out at NAS Lemoore. So I must be content with what I can buy at the store. (Whether it be online or the type you actually drive to, park your car at, walk into and look around. Truth be told, I'm old school. I like to be able to look at what I'm about to purchase. Ya know, pick it up, look at the cover art. Feel the heft. Though with software, buying online works too. It's just not as much fun.)

So when did I come down with this particular disease acquire this hobby? Round about 1988 IIRC. For that is when I purchased a copy of Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer.

Now when I bought this it may have had a slightly different name. According to Wikipedia
Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer is a 1987 computer aircraft simulation game produced by Electronic Arts that was originally released as Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Simulator. Due to a legal squabble with Microsoft over the usage of "Flight Simulator" in the name, the title was pulled from shelves and later re-released as Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer. Many copies of the original title were sold before being pulled from the shelves. Chuck Yeager served as technical consultant for the game, where his likeness and voice were prominently used.

Now the graphics on this were pretty primitive. But doggone-it, it felt like flying. Well, as near as you can get sitting on the ground, at a desk, in front of an old IBM PC-clone and gripping a rather cheap joystick.

But oh my jumping Jehoshaphat! Climbing into the SR-71 and going from sitting on the ground to "I think I've flown off the edge of the world" in mere seconds was a rush. (Seriously, the "game" world wasn't that big.)

Another thing worthy of note regarding this sim. I bought it before I owned a computer. The Missus Herself pronounced me to be "foolhardy and a bit of an idiot" until The Naviguesser came to my rescue.

"Mom. We both know that Dad is eventually going to buy a computer. Probably within months. He uses computers at work. So he should have one at home too!" He probably didn't sound quite that sophisticated in his argument, he was, after all, only nine at the time. But he was (and still is) a very bright guy!

"Now look here, son of mine," said The Missus Herself, "Yes. Dad uses a computer at work. That's why the Air Force gave him one. He doesn't need one at home."

"But Mom, how can I learn to use a computer if we don't have one at home?"

Like I said, a very bright kid. (Is it coincidence that he now works for EA? Hhmm...)

So I purchased the sim and within a few weeks I bought a computer.

Now back then they didn't become obsolete so quickly (like the day after you buy them) and I heard of a guy selling his because he wanted to buy a newer, fancier machine. That's how I got my first PC. Second hand. (Had very little rust and the engine ran pretty smooth.)

Now years go by, newer flight simulators came out. Some as good as Chuck Yeager's most (surprisingly) not. But there were a couple which were okay.

Then came the day in 2001 when IL-2 Sturmovik came out. I was now retired from the Air Force and making pretty good money. The Naviguesser heard of this particular flight sim and recommended it to me. As he was a newly minted Professional Surface Warfare Officer, (and as I said earlier, a pretty bright guy) I acted on his recommendation and bought it.

I've purchased every installment since and have not been disappointed with the original series. (I will address that comment in a moment.)

In the lead-in photo is a later expansion pack to IL-2 which include all three of the first expansion packs released. It included the original release and these three expansion packs: Forgotten Battles (IIRC it included a number of aircraft and scenarios to make IL-2 cover the entire Eastern Front, the original only covered a smaller portion of the campaign), Ace (brought some American and British fighters to the table, also some new maps covering Western Europe and such) and then Pacific Fighters (adding the US Navy and Marine Corps, the US Army Air Force units which fought in the Pacific and, of course, the Japanese).

All stayed true to the original but added more features. Like carrier operations and little things like being able to slide your canopy open. Didn't really add anything to the game play but added enormously to the sheer delight. (Or maybe that's just me. But sliding that canopy open and hearing the heightened sound of my engine gave me a thrill.)

Yak-9 Flying over Moscow, an actual in-game screen shot!

Nakajima B5N "Kate" rolling in on a torpedo run.

The final edition in what I term the original IL-2 series was titled 1946. This included a number of new, late war, aircraft and some birds which had never made it off the drawing board. Giving you this -

MiG-9 Fargo - First flight: 24 April 1946

The box art for 1946:

Now of course, I purchased the original and the first three expansion packs at retail price. When I found 1946, it was in the bargain bin. I could have saved myself about 125 bucks if I had waited. But then again, all the fun I had over the years was well worth it!

The kids at one point in time decided I needed some new flight controls. So one birthday (Christmas?) saw me get these -

Saitek X52 Flight Control System
(Throttle Quadrant and Joystick)

Now a friend of mine has himself a pretty nice flight sim set-up. I've seen pictures. He built it himself. I have to say, I want one! (Oh yeah, and rudder pedals. I need rudder pedals!)

The chair and the stands for the hardware go for about $800.
Or you can build your own.
(I'm sure The Missus Herself won't mind. Much...)
Of course, mine would look way more cramped. That is, look more like a military cockpit. (I'd probably have more monitors as well. How can I look over my shoulder if there's not going to be anything there but drywall?)

I mentioned above that I liked the original series best. There is one newer release that I have, it's a standalone, this one is IL-2: Cliffs of Dover. Covers the Battle of Britain, which I like. Splashing Dorniers and Heinkels is lots of fun. (Being chased by a schwarm*** of Me-109s, not so much.) The terrain is much improved over the original. But to me, the interface leaves summat to be desired. I liked the original interface better.

One reason is that it was really easy to personalize one's aircraft. Which I did. You could also personalize your pilot. Which I also did.

I once called The Nuke and The WSO up to the computer room to show them what I had done to my pilot. There, on the screen, was a camera view looking into the front windscreen of "my" FW-190. And there, was me. Well, the dude looked like me.

I had taken my work ID badge photo and replaced one of the stock pilot's faces with my own. I thought it looked awesome!

All The Nuke had to say was, "Dad. You're a freak..."

(And here I thought it was really cool. Truth be told, The WSO liked it too!)

While I haven't given up on Cliffs of Dover (I do fly it from time to time) I need to reinstall 1946. There are carrier landings to master and targets I haven't hit yet.

Besides, I need to personalize my Corsair...

My P-51...

My P-38...

So much to do, so little time.

Yes. Hobbies, we have them.

Oh yes we do!

FRaVMotC = Frequent Reader and Valued Member of the Commentariat. I've been using it a lot lately. Well, twice in two days. I think that's a lot. So I decide to acronymize it. Don't worry though. It's not a weapons grade acronym.

** jagdflieger = fighter pilot (German)

*** Schwarm = flight of four fighters (German)

Tuesday With Tony (and George and Frank and Jack)

Kawasaki Ki-61-I Hien by Bazyli Kot
The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (飛燕, "flying swallow") was a Japanese World War II fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. The first encounter reports claimed Ki-61s were Messerschmitt Bf 109s: further reports claimed that the new aircraft was an Italian design, which led to the Allied reporting name of "Tony", assigned by the United States War Department. The Japanese Army designation was "Army Type 3 Fighter" (三式戦闘機). It was the only mass-produced Japanese fighter of the war to use a liquid-cooled inline V engine. Over 2,500 Ki-61s were produced, first seeing action around New Guinea in 1943, and continuing to fly combat missions throughout the war. - Wikipedia
Frequent reader and valued member of the Commentariat, Virgil Xenophon, left this comment on the last Friday Flyby -
Too bad there are so few surviving late-war high performance Japanese fighters like the in-line liquid-cooled Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien, the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (looked a lot like a P-47), The Kawanishi N1K-2J "Shiden-Kai" or the Mitsubishi J2m Raiden. (of which only one survives)
Now Virgil speaks the truth here. Doing a little research I discovered this note at the foot of the Wikipedia article on the Hien -
Three airframes are known to exist:
  • A Ki-61-II-Kai (Ser. no. 5017 ) is on static display at the Tokko Heiwa Kaikan Museum in Chiran Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan.
  • A Ki-61 (unknown type and serial number) is owned by Kermit Week's Fantasy of Flight museum. It is currently stored and in need of restoration.
  • A Ki-61-II-Otsu ( Ser. no. 640 ) is currently under restoration to flying condition and will become part of the Military Aviation Museum collection in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.
Some of you may recognize that last entry as the Old AF Sarge's favorite little air museum, yup, Pungo. So that's a development I'll be tracking with great interest. (And may mention in these spaces from time to time, as data becomes available.)

Now the Hien was a favorite of mine as a kid. Nearly everybody had a model of the Zero, very few kids of my acquaintance had a Ki-61! So Virgil's comment brought back some memories.

Again I am surprised at the dearth of photos from the Japanese side. Especially considering the high quality cameras Japan is now famous for.

Of course, when I was a kid, "Made in Japan" was an insult. Not anymore! Said the guy who drives a Honda (ホンダ)!

So how about those other aircraft Virgil mentioned?

Kawanishi N1K-2J "George"

The Kawanishi N1K Kyōfū (強風 "strong wind", Allied reporting name "Rex") was an Imperial Japanese Navy floatplane fighter. The Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden (紫電 "Violet Lightning") was an Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service land-based version of the N1K. Assigned the Allied codename "George", the N1K-J was considered by both its pilots and opponents to be one of the finest land-based fighters flown by the Japanese during World War II. - Wikipedia
Nakajima Ki-84 "Frank"

The Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" (キ84 疾風"Gale") was a single-seat fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in World War II. The Allied reporting name was "Frank"; the Japanese Army designation was Army Type 4 Fighter (四式戦闘機 yon-shiki-sentō-ki). Featuring excellent performance and high maneuverability, the Ki-84 was considered to be the best Japanese fighter to see large scale operations during World War II. It was able to match any Allied fighter, and to intercept the high-flying B-29 Superfortresses. Its powerful armament (that could include two 30 mm and two 20 mm cannon) increased its lethality. Though hampered by poor production quality in later models, a high-maintenance engine, a landing gear prone to buckle, and lack of experienced pilots above all else, Hayates proved to be fearsome opponents; a total of 3,514 were built. - Wikipedia
Mitsubishi J2m "Jack"

The Mitsubishi J2M Raiden (雷電, "Thunderbolt") was a single-engined land-based fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in World War II. The Allied reporting name was "Jack". The J2M was designed by Jiro Horikoshi, creator of the A6M Zero to meet the 14-Shi (14th year of the Showa reign, or 1939) official specification. It was to be a strictly local-defense interceptor, intended to counter the threat of high-altitude bomber raids, and thus relied on speed, climb performance, and armament at the expense of manoeuvrability. The J2M was a sleek, but stubby craft with its over-sized Mitsubishi Kasei engine buried behind a long cowling, cooled by an intake fan and connected to the propeller with an extension shaft. Pilot visibility was poor, but a domed canopy introduced later in production partially alleviated this concern. - Wikipedia
Sadly, as Virgil mentioned, there aren't many of these birds left.
One Hayate was operated and flown by the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California, before being returned to Japan for display at the Arashiyama Museum in Kyoto. This aircraft is now exhibited at the Tokko Heiwa Kinen-kan Museum at Chiran, Japan. It is the only surviving Ki-84.
At least three Shiden Kai aircraft survive in American museums. One is at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.
A surviving J2M is on display at the Planes of Fame museum in Chino, California. - Wikipedia
Pity that...

The following clip is from my favorite flight sim. Not real, I know, but actual footage of the Hien is rare, and this was too cool not to post. (Did I mention that it's from my favorite flight sim?)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Of Things Aerial and Earthbound

Photo by Chris
That lead-in photo was borrowed from a blog post by the aforementioned Chris back in September of '09. Of which the photographer (and pilot, yes I said pilot) had this to say -
Another shot of Mount Ascutney.  This mountain is best known as Vermont's only monadnock ("lone mountain" - enhance your word power!).  Though its peak only reaches 3,143 feet, its isolation makes it stand out from a distance.  I think the town in the foreground is Windsor, VT.  Yay for situational awareness!  Ok, so I cheated and used Google after the flight was over.
Having grown up seeing that mountain to the north every day for 22 years, I instantly recognized a couple of things.
  1. That's the Connecticut River in the lower left of the screen and
  2. Interstate 91 is that straight line cutting across the flanks of the hills just behind the town of Windsor.
And I didn't need to check Google. Being native to the region, I didn't really need to. (Though I probably will later. I am kinda OCD that way!)

Now I have flown above and around that mountain a number of times in my youth. Back when my best friend had a pilot's license, we were both single and had jobs and (most importantly) sufficient disposable income to head for the local airport every now and then for to rent a single-engined flying machine. For the purposes of turning aviation fuel into entertainment. Hhmm, actually "sheer joy" is a better descriptor than mere "entertainment".

So why this picture?

As I may have mentioned in the past, my Muse is a rather fickle thing. Sometimes I head for the keyboard full of vim and vigor, fully prepared to commit thought to electronic paper. (For such is how I think of it. The screen is my canvas. It's also where I mix metaphors.)

Other times I stare at the screen much like those apes at the beginning of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bemused and bewildered. Though normally I think of something to write or I go do something else before I start trying to smash the monolith/monitor. After all, the kids bought me that monitor and it's very nice. (It would also be expensive to replace. Bear in mind, many of my ancestors were Scots. So "expensive" is anything other than "free". At least in my lexicon.)

So (having digressed once again, as I so often do), why this picture?

At first I was thinking about the Green Mountains, which form the backbone of my native land. (And while they are not green at the moment, being snow-covered and all, I thought them perhaps, "post-worthy".) So I'm casting about in Google Images for, well, images of the Green Mountains. Then I thought of Mt. Ascutney. Searched for it and found that picture. And Photographic Logbook. If you haven't checked out those links above, then go there. The guy has some awesome pictures. (Hint, hint, go check. I'll wait here...)

Now I also wanted to address that "monadnock" thing above. As Buck might say, "I had no ideer!" Because in New Hampshire, near Keene, which I drive through whenever I head North to the ancestral lands, there is this -

Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire
So a "monadnock" is defined as a lone mountain and it's an actual mountain in New Hampshire! I wonder what the origin of the word "monadnock" is. Which came first, the mountain or the term? Well, there's this from (of course) Wikipedia -
A monadnock or inselberg is an isolated rock hill, knob, ridge, or small mountain that rises abruptly from a gently sloping or virtually level surrounding plain. In southern and southern-central Africa, a similar formation of granite is known as a kopje, a Dutch word ("little head") from which the Afrikaans word koppie was derived. If the monadnock is dome-shaped and formed from granite-gneiss, it can also be called a bornhardt.
(Hhmm, is Mt Monadnock a monadnock AND a bornhardt? Could be. After all, New Hampshire is also known as "The Granite State". Hhmm...)

Live and learn. The only reason I am so excited about this is (1) my child-like pleasure in learning new things and (2) it's Monday, I'll take anything on a Monday which is out of the ordinary.

On to other matters.

I have added two new blogs to the "Things I Like To Read" list over there along the starboard rail. Photographic Logbook (as noted above) and  Ol' Buzzard's World View.

Now I did some soul searching before adding Ol' Buzzard. Some of his views of the world and life in general are diametrically opposed to my own. But since when do I have to agree with a point of view to find it interesting? Uh, never. As long as someone has an opinion and presents it in an entertaining and/or thought-provoking way, I'll read it. I may not agree with it but I'll read it. And recommend it to others.

And that Gentle Reader, is what I like to call diversity. It ain't about skin color. The world would be a pretty dull place if we all agreed with each other all of the time. A little controversy, a little different slant on things gets the creative juices flowing.

At least it does for me.

(And the Ol' Buzzard and his wife recently lost their beloved cat. And he posted of it here. Being an animal lover gets you lots of points in my book. Lots. Cats, dogs, bunnies, what-have-you.)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Upon A Sunday Morning

Looking North
As I looked northwards this Sunday morning, this is what I saw.

Yes, it was cold, about 17 degrees F, with a brisk wind causing Old Glory to snap and flutter from the flag staff.

A fresh dusting of snow was upon the frozen ground.

Every morning starts something like this.

But today, when I saw the flag, I had to take a picture.

While it's not exactly dawn's early light, to see Old Glory upon awakening is something I have always cherished.

Long may she wave!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

High Flight

John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (9 June 1922 – 11 December 1941) was an American aviator and poet who died as a result of a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire during World War II. He was serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he joined before the United States officially entered the war. He is most famous for his poem "High Flight."

Magee was killed at the age of 19, while flying Spitfire VZ-H, serial number AD-291. He had taken off with other members of 412 Squadron from RAF Wellingore (near Navenby & RAF Digby, and about three miles northwest of RAF Cranwell), which has now reverted to agriculture. The aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision with an Airspeed Oxford trainer from Cranwell, flown by Leading Aircraftman Ernest Aubrey Griffin. The two aircraft collided just below the cloud base at about 1,400 feet AGL, at 11:30, over the hamlet of Roxholme, which lies between RAF Cranwell and RAF Digby, in Lincolnshire. Magee was descending at high speed through a break in the clouds with three other aircraft.

At the inquiry afterwards a farmer testified that he saw the Spitfire pilot struggling to push back the canopy. The pilot stood up to jump from the plane but was too close to the ground for his parachute to open, and died on impact. Griffin was also killed.

Magee is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, Scopwick in Lincolnshire, England. On his grave are inscribed the first and last lines from his poem High Flight:

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth –
Put out my hand and touched the Face of God."

Part of the official letter to his parents read: "Your son's funeral took place at Scopwick Cemetery, near Digby Aerodrome, at 2:30 P.M. on Saturday, 13 December 1941, the service being conducted by Flight Lieutenant S. K. Belton, the Canadian padre of this Station. He was accorded full Service Honours, the coffin being carried by pilots of his own Squadron."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Missed It Last Week, D'Oh!

Am I the only one who sees an eerie resemblance here?
Much to my chagrin, I missed last week's Friday Open Road over at c w's.

I am not going to make that mistake this week. Lot's of motorcycles. (There were a lot last week too!)

Oh, yeah. There's a green Camaro too.

(No owls though, just the bike that looks like one. Maybe it's just me...)

The Friday Flyby - 24 January

Wikipedia -
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a long-range fighter aircraft, manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1940 to 1945. The A6M was designated as the Mitsubishi Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter (零式艦上戦闘機 rei-shiki-kanjō-sentōki), and also designated as the Mitsubishi A6M Rei-sen and Mitsubishi Navy 12-shi Carrier Fighter. The A6M was usually referred to by its pilots as the "Zero-sen", zero being the last digit of the Imperial year 2600 (1940) when it entered service with the Imperial Navy. The official Allied reporting name was "Zeke", although the use of the name "Zero" was later commonly adopted by the Allies as well.

When it was introduced early in World War II, the Zero was considered the most capable carrier-based fighter in the world, combining excellent maneuverability and very long range. In early combat operations, the Zero gained a legendary reputation as a dogfighter, achieving the outstanding kill ratio of 12 to 1, but by mid-1942 a combination of new tactics and the introduction of better equipment enabled the Allied pilots to engage the Zero on more equal terms.

The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service ("IJNAS") also frequently used the type as a land-based fighter. By 1943, inherent design weaknesses and the failure to develop more powerful aircraft engines meant that the Zero became less effective against newer enemy fighters that possessed greater firepower, armor, and speed, and approached the Zero's maneuverability. Although the Mitsubishi A6M was outdated by 1944, it was never totally supplanted by the newer Japanese aircraft types. During the final years of the War in the Pacific, the Zero was used in kamikaze operations. In the course of the war, more Zeros were built than any other Japanese aircraft.

As I've mentioned before, I have a number of favorite aircraft. Yes, most of them are fighter aircraft and a great many of them are from World War II. But there is something about the Zero. She's quick and oh so very nimble!

Now this next video is of a Zero, with its original Sakae engine. Pretty rare indeed!

She purrs, doesn't she?

Somewhere over the Pacific...

Zero in Imperial Japanese Navy Livery

Of course, the Zero had a role in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Not all of them made it back to their carriers.

The Niihau Incident
The Wreckage of Petty Officer Nishikaichi's Zero
Wikipedia -
The Japanese planners had determined that some means of rescuing fliers whose aircraft were too badly damaged to return to the carriers was required. The island of Niihau, only 30 minutes flying time from Pearl Harbor, was designated as the rescue point.

The Zero flown by Petty Officer Shigenori Nishikaichi of Hiryu was damaged in the attack on Wheeler, and he flew to the rescue point on Niihau. The aircraft was further damaged on landing. Nishikaichi was helped from the wreckage by one of the native Hawaiian inhabitants, who, aware of the tension between the United States and Japan, took the pilot's maps and other documents. The island's residents had no telephones or radio and were completely unaware of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nishikaichi enlisted the support of three Japanese-American residents in an attempt to recover the documents. During the ensuing struggles, Nishikaichi was killed and a Hawaiian civilian was wounded; one collaborator committed suicide, and his wife and the third collaborator were sent to prison.
As the war dragged on and many experienced Japanese pilots lost their lives in the face of overwhelming Allied air power, the Zero took on a newer, more sinister role.

The Kamikaze (神風, Divine Wind)

Kamikaze Zero Heads into the Sea
(Seen from USS Essex, CV 9)

Kamikaze Zero Seconds Before Impacting USS Missouri (BB 63)

By the end of the war, many Zeroes wound up as rusting junk in some forgotten jungle...

Or moldering away on the bottom of the Pacific...

A bitter end for such a beautiful aircraft.

A True Thoroughbred

Old Enemies Flying in Peaceful Harmony