Friday, June 30, 2006


"Pray For The Astronauts", "Cross Your Fingers"................

How come we are still worried about the "foam"? For "shit's sakes", in this day and age, with the materials we have, the "foam" situation should be a no-brainer! Again, NASA overrules it's experienced Managers. "Micro-managing" from the top. I hate it! A proper Manager listens to his "experienced subordinates", and factors in their experience, before he makes his decision. Two "Shuttles" lost already, and 14 "irreplaceable people". NASA needs to give "carte blanche" to their experienced Engineers to "scuttle" any Shuttle flight they aren't happy with, if there is a problem in their expertise. "Standards" need to be met. You hire "the best", then "overrule" them. "Recipe for disaster", again. Deadlines, "be damned"! It isn't worth another Shuttle and "our best"! Get it right, or get "new management"! Check out this "news release".

NASA Takes Risk with Shuttle Launch: By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA chief Michael Griffin is taking a calculated gamble by going ahead with the launch of Discovery, overruling two top Managers who fear foam flying off the fuel tank might harm the Space Shuttle.

The world will soon know if his gamble pays off.

Discovery was set to blast off from Kennedy Space Center at 3:49 p.m. EDT Saturday, the first launch of a Space Shuttle in almost a year and only the second since the Columbia disaster in 2003.

Storm clouds forecast for the afternoon remained the chief obstacle to launch. The Shuttle faced no technical problems a day before launch.

"The vehicle is remarkably clean, certainly as clean as I've ever seen it," Griffin said Friday.

The seven Astronauts say they are confident of his decision to go ahead, but hardly any Astronaut ever publicly expresses fears before a launch.

"I believe we'll be as safe as we were on my other flights," said Steve Lindsey, Discovery's Commander who has flown on three previous Shuttle missions. "I haven't really seen a decision made that I didn't agree with."

Faced with a 2010 deadline to finish building the International Space Station and end the Shuttle Program, Griffin wants to get the Shuttles flying again and believes a delay now would create schedule pressure toward the end of the decade.

He has acknowledged, though, that he would likely shut down the Shuttle Program if there is another vehicle lost like Columbia or Challenger.

"We are playing the odds," Griffin said Friday. "What you pay us for as taxpayers is to understand those odds in great detail ... It's called risk management."

The board that investigated the Columbia accident faulted NASA three years ago for placing schedule concerns ahead of safety, squelching dissent and steamrolling over the concerns of Engineers who worried that foam from the huge external fuel tank had hit Columbia. Fiery gases were able to penetrate the wing where the foam knocked a hole, causing the Shuttle to disintegrate. All seven Astronauts were killed.

This time around, NASA has aired its internal dissent publicly.

Bryan O'Connor, the Space Agency's Chief Safety Officer, and Chief Engineer Christopher Scolese recommended at a meeting two weeks ago that the Shuttle not fly until further design changes are made to 34 areas on the fuel tank known as ice-frost ramps. These wedge-shaped brackets run up and down the tank holding in place pressurization lines. Foam insulation is used to prevent ice from building up on the tank when it is filled with supercold fuel. Small pieces of foam have snapped off during previous launches.

At the meeting, Scolese wrote in a report that he signed, "I remain no-go based upon the potential loss of the vehicle."

NASA has refused Freedom of Information Act requests from The Associated Press, Florida Today, and perhaps other news organizations for recordings of the meeting, even though the agency released the same information last year.

NASA Engineers redesigned the external fuel tank after the Columbia accident, and again after a 1-pound piece of foam insulation came off the tank during the launch of Discovery last summer. In the most recent change, more than 35 pounds of foam have been removed in what NASA describes as the biggest aerodynamic change ever made to the Shuttle's launch system. NASA tried other design changes to the ice-frost ramps, such as removing foam, but they didn't hold up well in wind tunnel tests.

O'Connor and Scolese agreed with Griffin's rationale that the risk was only to the Shuttle and not the crew since the Astronauts could take refuge in the International Space Station until a rescue vehicle is sent up, so they didn't appeal Griffin's decision.

"It's clearly a risk. Mike knows it's a risk," said John Logsdon, Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University who served on the board that investigated the Columbia accident. "What's good about this process is the people who think the risk is too great had their case fully heard with ... I believe, a prudent judgment to its outcome."

NASA Managers concede some foam will fall off the tank, but they don't think the pieces will be large enough to cause damage.

"There will always be a risk associated with human spaceflight," Douglas Osheroff, a Stanford Physics Professor who served on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, said in an e-mail. "I am not so concerned about the ice-frost ramps, assuming that NASA has done its homework."

Discovery's seven-member crew will test Shuttle inspection and repair techniques, bring supplies and equipment to the International Space Station and deliver the European Space Agency's Thomas Reiter for a six-month stay aboard the orbiting outpost.

Astronauts Piers Sellers and Mike Fossum will make two spacewalks and possibly a third, which would add a day to what is planned to be a 12-day mission.

Astronaut colleagues of the Discovery crew say it makes sense to launch the Shuttle now to see how it flies with the current changes to the tank.

"What we don't want to do is smash-down too far on one side where we're so interested in listening to everybody's point of view and doing more testing that we actually don't launch again," said Astronaut Pam Melroy, who will become the second female Commander of a Space Shuttle next year. "We also don't want to go too far the other way, where we say 'Shut up everybody. We're going to go fly!'"

"Gamble"? "2010 deadline"? We all know flying is "risk management", but manage the "risks" better, please! Like I said;

"Pray For The Astronauts", "Cross Your Fingers"................

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Men With "Balls Of Steel"..........!

Clive Pearce sent me a fascinating account of a "crew" that went "above and beyond the call of duty"! Check it out!

From: "clive pearce"
To: "otterflogger"
Subject: Quite an Interesting Story - hope you enjoy it!
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2006 10:15:09 -0400

A short "Round Trip" to New Zealand!

A fascinating account of an unplanned trip around the world by a Pan Am crew who got caught by the outbreak of WWII in the Pacific and made the most unexpected trip of their careers. The Round The World Saga of the "Pacific Clipper", by John A. Marshall.

The Equipment:

Engines: Four (4) 1,600 hp (1,192 kW) Wright R-2600 Twin Cyclone (1,192 kw), 14 cylinder, air-cooled, radial engines.

Wing Span: 152 ft. (46.33 m.) Length: 106 ft (32.31 m.)

Max T.O. Weight: 84,000 lb. (38,102 kg.)

Max level speed: 199 mph (320 km/h) Cruising speed: 184 mph (296 km/h)
Range: 5,200 miles (8369 km)

First flight: June 7, 1938

Ceiling: 19,600 feet

Accommodation: 10 crew, 74 passengers

December 7, 1941. The first blush of dawn tinged the eastern sky and sent its rosy fingers creeping onto the flight deck of the huge triple-tailed flying boat as she cruised high above the South Pacific. Six days out of her home port of San Francisco, the Boeing 314 was part of Pan American Airways' growing new service that linked the far corners of the Pacific Ocean. With veteran captain Robert Ford in command, the Pacific Clipper, carrying 12 passengers and a crew of ten was just a few hours from landing in the harbor at Auckland, New Zealand.

The calm serenity of the flight deck early on this spring morning was suddenly shattered by the crackling of the radio. Radio Operator John Poindexter clamped the headset to his ears as he deciphered the coded message. His eyes widened as he quickly wrote the characters on the pad in front of him. Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japanese war planes and had suffered heavy losses; the United States was at war. The stunned crew looked at each other as the implications of the message began to dawn. They realized that their route back to California was irrevocably cut, and there was no going back. Ford ordered radio silence, and then posted lookouts in the navigator's blister; two hours later, the Pacific Clipper touched down smoothly on the waters of Auckland harbor. Their odyssey was just beginning.

The crew haunted the overwhelmed communications room at the US Embassy in Auckland every day for a week waiting for a message from Pan Am headquarters in New York. Finally they received word -- they were to try and make it back to the United States the long way: around the world westbound. For Ford and his crew, it was a daunting assignment. Facing a journey of over 30,000 miles, over oceans and lands that none of them had ever seen, they would have to do all their own planning and servicing, scrounging whatever supplies and equipment they needed; all this in the face of an erupting World War in which political alliances and loyalties in many parts of the world were uncertain at best. Their first assignment was to return to Noumea, back the way they had come over a week earlier. They were to pick up the Pan American station personnel there, and then deliver them to safety in Australia. Late on the evening of December 16th, the blacked out flying boat lifted off from Auckland harbor and headed northwest through the night toward Noumea. They maintained radio silence, landing in the harbor just as the sun was coming up. Ford went ashore and sought out the Pan Am Station Manager. "Round up all your people," he said. "I want them all at the dock in an hour. They can have one small bag apiece."

The crew set to work fueling the airplane, and exactly two hours later, fully fueled and carrying a barrel of engine oil, the Clipper took off and pointed her nose south for Australia.

It was late in the afternoon when the dark green smudge of the Queensland coast appeared in the windscreen, and Ford began a gentle descent for landing in the harbor at Gladstone. After offloading their bewildered passengers, the crew set about seeing to their primary responsibility, the Pacific Clipper. Captain Ford recounted, "I was wondering how we were going to pay for everything we were going to need on this trip. We had money enough for a trip to Auckland and back to San Francisco, but this was a different story. In Gladstone a young man who was a banker came up to me and out of the blue said, 'How are you fixed for money?' 'Well, we're broke!' I said. He said, 'I'll probably be shot for this,' but he went down to his bank on a Saturday morning, opened the vault and handed me five hundred American dollars. Since Rod Brown, our navigator, was the only one with a lock box and a key we put him in charge of the money. That $500 financed the rest of the trip all the way to New York."

Ford planned to take off and head straight northwest, across the Queensland desert for Darwin, and then fly across the Timor Sea to the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), hoping that Java and Sumatra remained in friendly hands. The next day, as they droned into the tropical morning the coastal jungle gradually gave way to great arid stretches of grassland and sand dunes. Spinnifex and gum trees covered the landscape to the horizon. During the entire flight to Darwin the crew didn't see a river big enough to set down the big flying boat should anything go wrong. Any emergency would force them to belly land the airplane onto the desert, and their flight would be over.

They approached the harbor at Darwin late in the afternoon. Massive thunderheads stretched across the horizon, and continuous flashes of lightning lit up the cockpit. The northernmost city in Australia, Darwin was closest to the conflict that was spreading southward like a brushfire. A rough frontier town in the most remote and primitive of the Australian territories, it was like something out of a wild west movie. After they had landed, the Pacific Clipper crew was offered a place to shower and change; much to their amusement their "locker room" turned out to be an Australian Army brothel.

Ford and his crew set about fueling the airplane. It was a lengthy, tiresome job. The fuel was stored in five gallon jerry cans, each one had to be hauled up over the wing and emptied into the tanks; it was past midnight before they were finished. They managed a few hours of fitful sleep before takeoff, but Ford was anxious to be under way. News of the progress of the Japanese forces was sketchy at best. They were fairly certain that most of the Dutch East Indies was still in friendly hands, but they could not dally.

Early the next morning they took off for Surabaya, fourteen hundred miles to the west across the Timor Sea. The sun rose as they droned on across the flat turquoise sea, soon they raised the eastern islands of the great archipelago of east Java. Rude thatch-roofed huts dotted the beaches; the islands were carpeted with the lush green jungle of the tropics.

Surabaya lay at the closed end of a large bay in the Bali Sea. The second largest city on the island of Java, it was guarded by a British garrison and a squadron of Bristol Beaufort fighters. As the Pacific Clipper approached the city, a single fighter rose to meet them; moments later it was joined by several more. The recognition signals that Ford had received in Australia proved to be inaccurate, and the big Boeing was a sight unfamiliar to the British pilots. The crew tensed as the fighters drew closer. Because of a quirk in the radio systems, they could hear the British pilots, but the pilots could not hear the Clipper. There was much discussion among them as to whether the flying boat should be shot down or allowed to land. At last the crew heard the British controller grant permission for them to land, and then add, "If they do anything suspicious, shoot them out of the sky!" With great relief, Ford began a very careful approach.

As they neared the harbor, Ford could see that it was filled with warships, so he set the Clipper down in the smooth water just outside the harbor entrance. "We turned around to head back," Ford said. "There was a launch that had come out to meet us, but instead of giving us a tow or a line, they stayed off about a mile and kept waving us on. Finally when we got further into the harbor they came closer. It turned out that we had landed right in the middle of a minefield, and they weren't about to come near us until they saw that we were through it!"

When they disembarked, the crew of the Pacific Clipper received an unpleasant surprise; they were told that they would be unable to refuel with 100 octane aviation gas. What little there was severely rationed, and was reserved for the military. There was automobile gas in abundance however, and Ford was welcome to whatever he needed. He had no choice. The next leg of their journey would be many hours over the Indian Ocean, and there was no hope of refueling elsewhere. The flight engineers, Swede Roth and Jocko Parish, formulated a plan that they hoped would work. They transferred all their remaining aviation fuel to the two fuselage tanks, and filled the remaining tanks to the limit with the lower octane automobile gas.

"We took off from Surabaya on the 100 octane, climbed a couple of thousand feet, and pulled back the power to cool off the engines," said Ford. "Then we switched to the automobile gas and held our breaths. The engines almost jumped out of their mounts, but they ran. We figured it was either that or leave the airplane to the Japs."

They flew northwesterly across the Sunda Straits, paralleling the coast of Sumatra. Chasing the setting sun, they started across the vast expanse of ocean. They had no aviation charts or maps for this part of the world; the only navigational information available to the crew was the latitude and longitude of their destination at Trincomalee, on the island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Using this data, and drawing from memory, Rod Brown was creating his own Mercator maps of South Asia. Ford was not only worried about finding the harbor, he was very concerned about missing Ceylon altogether. He envisioned the Clipper droning on over India, lost and low on fuel, unable to find a body of water on which to land.

As they neared the island they could see a cloud bank ahead. Ford said, "There was some low scud, so we descended. We wanted the maximum available visibility to permit picking up landfall at the earliest moment -- we didn't want to miss the island. All of a sudden there it was, right in front of us, a Jap submarine! We could see the crew running for the deck gun. Let me tell you we were pretty busy getting back into the scud again!"

Ford jammed the throttles of the Clipper forward to climb power, the engines complaining bitterly! Their 150 mph speed soon had them well out of range of the sub's guns, and the crew heaved a sigh of relief. It would be difficult to determine who was the more surprised; the Japanese submarine commander or the crew of the Clipper, startled out of their reverie after the long flight.

It was another hour until they reached the island, and the Boeing finally touched water in the harbor at Trincomalee. The British Forces stationed there were anxious to hear what Ford and his crew had to report from the war zone to the east, and the crew was duly summoned to a military meeting. Presiding was a pompous Royal Navy Commodore who informed Ford in no uncertain terms that he doubted Ford would know a submarine if it ran over him. Ford felt the hackles rise on the back of his neck. He realized that he could not afford to make an enemy of the British military, the fate of the Pacific Clipper rested too heavily in their hands. He swallowed hard and said nothing.

It was Christmas Eve when they began the takeoff from Ceylon and turned the ship again to the northwest. The heavily loaded Boeing struggled for altitude, laboring through the leaden humid air. Suddenly there was a frightening bang as the number three engine let go. It shuddered in its mount, and as they peered through the windscreen the crew could see gushes of black oil pouring back over the wing. Ford quickly shut the engine down, and wheeled the Clipper over into a 180 degree turn, heading back to Trincomalee. Less than an hour after takeoff the Pacific Clipper was back on the waters of Trincomalee harbor. The repairs to the engine took the rest of Christmas Eve and all of Christmas Day. One of the engine's fourteen cylinders had failed, wrenching itself loose from its mount, and while the repair was not particularly complex, it was tedious and time-consuming. Finally early in the morning of December 26th, they took off from Ceylon for the second time. All day they droned across the lush carpet of the Indian sub continent, and then cut across the northeastern corner of the Arabian Sea to their landing in Karachi, touching down in mid-afternoon.

The following day, bathed and refreshed, they took off and flew westward across the Gulf of Oman toward Arabia. After just a bit over eight routine hours of flying, they landed in Bahrain, where there was a British garrison.

Another frustration presented itself the following morning as they were planning the next leg of their journey. They had planned to fly straight west across the Arabian peninsula and the Red Sea into Africa, a flight that would not have been much longer than the leg they had just completed from Karachi.

"When we were preparing to leave Bahrain, we were warned by the British authorities not to fly across Arabia," said Ford. "The Saudis had apparently already caught some British fliers who had been forced down there. The natives had dug a hole, buried them in it up to their necks, and just left them."

They took off into the grey morning and climbed through a solid overcast. They broke out of the clouds into the dazzling sunshine, and the carpet of clouds below stretched westward to the horizon. "We flew north for about twenty minutes," Ford said, "then we turned west and headed straight across Saudi Arabia. We flew for several hours before there was a break in the clouds below us, and damned if we weren't smack over the Mosque at Mecca! I could see the people pouring out of it, it was just like kicking an anthill. They were probably firing at us, but at least they didn't have any anti-aircraft."

The Pacific Clipper crossed the Red Sea and the coast of Africa in the early afternoon with the Saharan sun streaming in the cockpit windows. The land below was a dingy yellowish brown, with nothing but rolling sand dunes and stark rocky outcroppings. The only sign of human habitation was an occasional hut; every so often they flew over small clusters of men tending livestock who stopped and shielded their eyes from the sun, staring up at the strange bird that made such a noise. The crew's prayers for the continued good health of the four Wright Cyclones became more and more fervent. Should they have to make an emergency landing here, they would be in dire straits indeed.

Later in the afternoon they raised the Nile River, and Ford turned the ship to follow it to the confluence of the White and Blue Niles, just below Khartoum. They landed in the river, and after they were moored the crew went ashore to be greeted by the now familiar hospitality of the Royal Air Force. Ford's plan was to continue southwest to Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo and begin their South Atlantic crossing there. He had no desire to set out across the Sahara; a forced landing in that vast trackless wasteland would not only render the aircraft forever immobile, but the crew would surely perish in the harshness of the desert.

Early the next morning they took off from the Nile for Leopoldville. This was to be a particularly long overland flight, and they wanted to leave plenty of daylight for the arrival. They would land on the Congo River at Leopoldville, and from there would strike out across the South Atlantic for South America.

The endless brown of the Sudan gave way to rolling green hills, and then rocky crests that stretched across their path. They flew over native villages and great gatherings of wildlife. Herds of wildebeest, hundreds of thousands strong, stampeded in panic as the Clipper roared overhead. The grassland soon turned to jungle, and they crossed several small rivers, which they tried to match to their maps. Suddenly, ahead they saw a large river, much bigger and wider than others they had crossed, and off to their right was a good-sized town. The river had to be the mighty Congo, and the town was Bumba, the largest settlement on the river at that point. From their maps they saw that they could turn and follow the river downstream to Leopoldville. They had five hundred miles to fly.

Late in the afternoon they raised the Congolese capital of Leopoldville. Ford set the Boeing down gently onto the river, and immediately realized the strength of the current. He powered the ship into the mooring, and the crew finally stepped ashore. It was like stepping into a sauna. The heat was the most oppressive they had yet encountered; it descended on them like a cloak, sapping what energy they had left.

A pleasant surprise awaited them however, when two familiar faces greeted them at the dock. A Pan American Airport Manager and a Radio Officer had been dispatched to meet them, and Ford was handed a cold beer. "That was one of the high points of the whole trip," he said.

After a night ashore they went to the airplane the next morning prepared for the long over-water leg that would take them back to the western hemisphere. The terrible heat and humidity had not abated a bit when the hatches were finally secured and they swung the Clipper into the river channel for the takeoff. The airplane was loaded to the gunnels with fuel, plus the drum of oil that had come aboard at Noumea. It was, to put it mildly, just a bit overloaded. They headed downstream into the wind, going with the six-knot current. Just beyond the limits of the town the river changed from a placid downstream current into a cataract of rushing rapids; pillars of rocks broke the water into a tumbling maelstrom. Ford held the engines at takeoff power, and the crew held their breath while the airplane gathered speed on the glassy river! The heat and humidity, and their tremendous gross weight were all factors working against them as they struggled to get the machine off the water before the cataracts. Ford rocked the hull with the elevators, trying to get the Boeing up on the step. Just before they would enter the rapids and face certain destruction, the hull lifted free. The Pacific Clipper was flying, but just barely. Their troubles were far from over, however. Just beyond the cataracts they entered the steep gorges; it was as though they were flying into a canyon. With her wings bowed, the Clipper staggered, clawing for every inch of altitude.

The engines had been at take-off power for nearly five minutes and their temperatures were rapidly climbing above the red line; how much more abuse could they take? With agonizing slowness the big Boeing began to climb, foot by perilous foot. At last they were clear of the walls of the gorge, and Ford felt he could pull the throttles back to climb power. He turned the airplane toward the west and the Atlantic. The crew, silent, listened intently to the beat of the engines. They roared on without a miss, and as the airplane finally settled down at their cruising altitude Ford decided they could safely head for Brazil, over three thousand miles to the west.

The crew felt revived with new energy, and in spite of their fatigue, they were excitedly optimistic. Against all odds they had crossed southern Asia and breasted the African continent. Their airplane was performing better than they had any right to expect, and after their next long ocean leg they would be back in the hemisphere from which they had begun their journey nearly a month before. The interior of the airplane that had been home to them for so many days was beginning to wear rather thin. They were sick of the endless hours spent droning westward, tired of the apprehension of the unknown and frustrated by the lack of any real meaningful news about what was happening in a world besieged by war. They just wanted to get home.

After being airborne over twenty hours, they landed in the harbor at Natal just before noon. While they were waiting for the necessary immigration formalities to be completed, the Brazilian authorities insisted that the crew disembark while the interior of the airplane was sprayed for yellow fever. Two men in rubber suits and masks boarded and fumigated the airplane.

Late that same afternoon they took off for Trinidad, following the Brazilian coast as it curved around to the northwest. It wasn't until after they had departed that the crew made an unpleasant discovery. Most of their personal papers and money were missing, along with a military chart that had been entrusted to Navigator Rod Brown by the US military attache in Leopoldville, obviously stolen by the Brazilian "fumigators."

The sun set as they crossed the mouth of the Amazon, nearly a hundred miles wide where it joins the sea. Across the Guineas in the dark they droned, and finally at 3 AM the following morning they landed at Trinidad. There was a Pan Am station at Port of Spain, and they happily delivered themselves and their weary charge into friendly hands.

The final leg to New York was almost anti-climactic. Just before six on the bitter morning of January 6th, the control officer in the Marine Terminal at La Guardia was startled to hear his radio crackle into life with the message, "Pacific Clipper, inbound from Auckland, New Zealand, Captain Ford reporting. Overhead in five minutes."

In a final bit of irony, after over thirty thousand miles and two hundred hours of flying on their epic journey, the Pacific Clipper had to circle for nearly an hour, because no landings were permitted in the harbor until official sunrise. They finally touched down just before seven, the spray from their landing freezing as it hit the hull. No matter -- the Pacific Clipper had made it home.

The significance of the flight is best illustrated by the records that were set by Ford and his crew. It was the first round-the-world flight by a commercial airliner, as well as the longest continuous flight by a commercial plane, and was the first circumnavigation following a route near the Equator (they crossed the Equator four times.) They touched all but two of the world's seven continents, flew 31,500 miles in 209 hours and made 18 stops under the flags of 12 different nations. They also made the longest non-stop flight in Pan American's history, a 3,583 mile crossing of the South Atlantic from Africa to Brazil.

As the war progressed, it became clear that neither the Army nor the Navy was equipped or experienced enough to undertake the tremendous amount of long distance air transport work required. Pan American Airways was one of the few airlines in the country with the personnel and expertise to supplement the military air forces. Captain Bob Ford and most of his crew spent the war flying contract missions for the US Armed Forces. After the war Ford continued flying for Pan American, which was actively expanding its routes across the Pacific and around the world. He left the airline in 1952 to pursue other aviation interests.

The Crew of Pacific Clipper: Captain Robert Ford, First Officer John H. Mack, Second Officer/Navigator Roderick N. Brown, Third Officer James G. Henriksen, Fourth Officer John D. Steers, First Engineer Homans K. "Swede" Roth, Second Engineer John B. "Jocko" Parish, First Radio Officer John Poindexter*, Second Radio Officer Oscar Hendrickson, Purser Barney Sawicki, Asst Purser Verne C. Edwards.

* Poindexter was originally scheduled to accompany the Pacific Clipper as far as Los Angeles, and then return to San Francisco; he had even asked his wife to hold dinner that evening. In Los Angeles, however, the regularly scheduled Radio Officer suddenly became ill, and Poindexter had to make the trip himself. His one shirt was washed in every port that the Pacific Clipper visited.

"Steel Men" in an "aluminum ship"! Thanks, Clive!

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What a "boat", and what "men that sailed her"! Posted by Picasa


Steve's Video Of The Day: Nimble, Like a "Cat"!

I have multi time, turbine time, radial time, ski time, taildragger time, and float time. The most often question asked of me is: "How does one fly floats well?" which my reply is always: "Simple, you have to be 'nimble', like a 'Cat'?" Don't believe me? Watch!

VIDEO - Nimble, Like a "Cat"!

"Black Cats" are very "nimble", also! Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 26, 2006


The "Red Baron".....!

Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, the world’s first Ace

Written by Pacific Aircraft (, producing the finest collection of hand made and hand painted Aircraft, Ships, and Space Craft models for over 20 years.

A bit of a mystery shrouds the death of Baron Manfred Von Richthofen (the “Red Baron”) over the Morlancourt Ridge, near the Somme River, on April 21, 1918. Some accounts have him crashing to the ground, others say that while he was shot through the torso, he maintained enough control and presence of mind to land his Fokker Dr I before he died of his wounds. Whatever the exact circumstances, he was hit with a .303 caliber round, which confirms that he was killed by a British Empire troop – whether Australian, British, or Canadian – although the identity of the shooter remains in question to this day.

Officially, credit for the Richthofen kill went to RAF Captain Arthur Brown, who was pursuing him at the time. Later analysis tends to credit an Australian machine gunner on the ground, primarily because of the route traveled by the round. It was determined that it went from low in his right side and slightly behind him, then went up and forward from there, but the most telling fact was that it was found still in Richthofen’s clothing. Had the shot come from Brown’s machine gun, it would not have still been there, since the planes were in close proximity to each other.

Thus both the angle of the wound and the diminished velocity of the bullet indicate that the shot came from the ground, most likely one Sergeant Cedric Popkin of the Australian 24th Machine Gun Company.

Richthofen was born on May 2, 1892. He went into the German army and completed his cavalry cadet training in 1911, but soon after the outbreak of the Great War, he became bored and decided he wanted to fly. He secured a transfer in 1915 and started flight training in October, completing his first solo flight on October 10. Taking the liberty of mounting a machine gun on his Albatros B II reconnaissance plane, he essentially created his own fighter. It wasn’t long before he shot down a French reconnaissance plane, although it wasn’t credited to him.

During one of his many exploits, on November 23, 1916, he shot down and killed Major Lanoe George Hawker, who at the time was the best of the British pilots, one whom Richthofen considered very “big game.” By this time, of course, the Allies were concentrating intensely on going after him. He was causing entirely too much damage and had to be stopped.

With 20 kills in April of 1917, Richthofen brought his total to an unprecedented 52. By this time he had become a fearless as well as a ruthless killer, even shooting Allied pilots trying to escape from their downed planes. This was quite a change from earlier, when he once sent a box of cigars to a British opponent who survived.

Then in July of that year, he took a round that grazed and partially splintered his skull and, because it never healed properly, caused discomfort in the form of severe headaches for the rest of his life. After a period of treatment and recuperation, he returned to the squadron, but he wasn’t at his peak for several weeks.

By September of that year, he had managed to recover somewhat, and raised his kill count to 60. By then he was flying the distinctive red triple-wing Fokker Dr I that he is remembered for today. At the time of his death, he had achieved 80 kills, the highest number for World War I of any country, and in fact Baron Manfred Von Richthofen’s air battle record still stands.

This Article brought to you by

Pacific Aircraft (, producing the world's finest collection of hand-made model aircraft, ships, plaques and artifacts for over 20 years.


Steve's Video Of The Day: "Alaskan Gravel Runway"!

Many pilots in northern Canada have flown a large portion of their "wheeled-career" operating from "gravel strips". Well, this video takes "gravel runways" to another dimension. Check out an "Alaskan gravel runway"!

VIDEO - "Alaskan Gravel Runway"!

Sunday, June 25, 2006


"Lost", on the "Berens River"........

OK, OK, I wasn't lost, but now I have your attention. Last week I had dropped off Michael Palmen and Michael Hobbs and a canoe at Long Lake, on the Berens River system, and they were going to canoe the local area. They were also going to paddle "upstream" to "Big Moose Falls". Well, Friday morning I picked them up. I flew over the area and they had a VHF radio, and told me they would be at our pre-arranged pickup spot in one half hour, as they were still paddling. I was early, so I figured I would land, tie-up my horse, and go in the "Saloon" for a "snort of whisky". Well, I tied-up, but couldn't find a saloon, so I went wandering with my camera. The place I tied-up was a spot I was familiar with, as I used to haul non-Resident moose hunters into this area years ago for Peter Kalden, owner of Davis Point Lodge and Outfitting. It is a beautiful spot, and a great area to stopover and camp and cook when travelling the river.

The Berens River starts modestly in a weed-choked marsh just west of the height of land that separates the Berens watershed from the Albany River watershed in Ontario. Although currently in a state unchanged and untouched since the glaciers retreated, these two river systems are among Ontario’s most threatened Rivers with logging and road construction to start in the not too distant future in and around their headwaters. The Berens River grows quickly from a modest meandering stream to a river of incredible power and might as tributaries such as the Serpent and Throat Rivers feed its volume. Moose, woodland caribou, bear and most animals and birds that inhabit the boreal forest can be seen frequenting its shores. As you approach the river mouth you can also expect to encounter the bird with North Americas second longest wingspan - the white pelican. A fishery of great quality also awaits those who take the time to wet a line.

The Upper Berens consists of long channels broken by powerful falls, rapids of which a few are runnable and beautiful sparkling lakes. Un-maintained portages are old, mostly short and seldom trodden by man, as they should be on a truly wild river.

Eventually the upper Berens ends tangibly at Berens Lake. It is here the river changes character and becomes a pool and drop system of picturesque rock-rimmed lakes interspersed with a few channels of whitewater, which is typical of rivers flowing into the eastern shores of Lake Winnipeg. Downstream of Berens Lake is the village of Pikangikum, ON, one of several First Nations Villages along the way. These also include Poplar Hill, ON, Pauingassi, MB, Little Grand Rapids, MB, and Berens River, MB. At Family Lake, Manitoba, the river divides into two parts, the southern portion becomes know as the Pigeon River, the northern portion remains known as the Berens River. Long Lake and Big Moose Falls are roughly halfway between the communities of Little Grand Rapids Indian Reserve and Berens River Indian Reserve, which is on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg where the Berens empties into the "Big Lake". Berens and Little Grand are 72 miles apart. From its headwaters to its mouth, trading posts to pictographs, the Berens River is a wonder to explore and experience. Have a "gander" at some pics I took while I waited for "Mike" and "Mike"!

"Big Moose Falls"! Posted by Picasa

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UKN tied-up! Now, "where is that Saloon"..........? Posted by Picasa

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Abandoned fire-pit........ Posted by Picasa

....and another. Posted by Picasa

An old "moose-hanging" rack....... Posted by Picasa

......and another. Posted by Picasa

Some carnivore had killed a northern pike and devoured it on shore. Look at the teeth on the bottom portion of the pike's jaw. Posted by Picasa

Local vegetation. Posted by Picasa

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At last, here come the two "Mikes".......! Posted by Picasa

"Mike" and "Mike"! Posted by Picasa

Pulling up to UKN. Posted by Picasa

Offloading! Posted by Picasa

Other canoers on the river. Posted by Picasa

Loaded, and canoe tied on. Posted by Picasa

Michael Palmen rides "shotgun"....... Posted by Picasa

.......Michael Hobbs enters UKN through her rear door. Posted by Picasa

Well, I returned the "Mikes" back to Pine Dock safely, "Mission Accomplished"! I bid them "adieu", as their "river adventure" was over. They videotaped the flight out, and they now have additional memories to reflect upon years from now, as the "twlight of life" descends upon them, as it will us all.