Archive for the ‘Planes’ Category

Obit watch: December 9, 2016.

Friday, December 9th, 2016

John Glenn roundup: NYT. Lawrence. WP. Sweet story about Mrs. Glenn: they were married for 73 years. LAT. NASA Glenn Research Center.

(My dad worked at the Glenn Research Center a long time ago; so long ago, it wasn’t called the Glenn Research Center back then.)

Edited to add: Borepatch on Glenn. NYT obit for Greg Lake.

Firing watch and norts spews: November 29, 2016.

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

This is an actual ESPN headline:

espn
Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. May the dead rest peacefully, and may the survivors recover and find peace as well.

Recent firings that I missed over the past few days:

Brian Polian out in Nevada, though this is being spun as “by mutual agreement”. The team was 23-27 over his four years, and 5-7 this year.

Ron Caragher out at San Jose State. 19-30 in four seasons, 4-8 this year.

Random links: October 30, 2016.

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

A handful of random links that I’ve accumulated over the past few days. Some of these are arguably appropriate for the season, some not…

By way of Lawrence, the first air hijacking.

… Midway through the third of these sessions, while airborne at 5,000 feet and sitting in the rear seat of a tandem training plane equipped with dual controls, he pulled a revolver from a trouser pocket and, without giving any warning, sent two .32 calibre bullets through Bivens’s skull. Pletch then managed to land the plane, dumped the instructor’s body in a thicket, and took off again, heading north to his home state to… well, what he intended to do was never really clear…

By way of Hognose over at the Weaponsman blog, a retrospecitve from Philly.com on a crime story I’d never heard of: 75 years ago, a spaghetti salesman and his co-conspirators murdered somewhere between 50 and 100 people with arsenic. It was your typical life insurance/double indemnity scam, distinguished perhaps only by the number of victims.

By way of Stuff from Hsoi, through Lawrence: Massad Ayoob’s latest “Ayoob Files” entry for American Handgunner is about John Daub’s shooting incident. Briefly, Mr. Daub (who instructs part-time for KR Training) shot and killed a man who kicked down the front door of his house while he was inside with his wife and kids:

Few people are able to recall how many shots they fired in self-defense when the matter goes beyond two or three rounds. John was no exception. What we have with him, however, is the rare case of a man who was a deeply trained firearms instructor becoming involved in a shooting. It’s rather like an oncologist who is diagnosed with cancer himself: an uncommon opportunity for someone heavily experienced in the thing from the outside, to experience it from the inside.

For the record: NYT obit for Jack Chick.

By way of the News@Ycombinator Twitter: ESPN lost 621,000 subscribers in one month.

So if we’re very conservative and project that ESPN continues to lose 3 million subscribers a year — well below the rate that they are currently losing subscribers — then the household numbers would look like this over the next five years:

2017: 86 million subscribers
2018: 83 million subscribers
2019: 80 million subscribers
2020: 77 million subscribers
2021: 74 million subscribers

At 74 million subscribers — Outkick’s projection for 2021 based on the past five years of subscriber losses — ESPN would be bringing in just over $6.2 billion a year in yearly subscriber fees at $7 a month. At $8 a month, assuming the subscriber costs per month keeps climbing, that’s $7.1 billion in subscriber revenue. Both of those numbers are less than the yearly rights fees cost.

On a personal note, my mother is planning to dump cable in the next few days, and I don’t even think she realizes that she’s paying $80 a year for the NFL and other crap she doesn’t watch on ESPN, and another $30 a year for the NBA (which she also doesn’t watch).

NYT obit for John Zacherle, aka “Zacherley”, one of the early TV horror movie hosts.

I didn’t grow up in the NYC/Philly area, so I never saw “Zacherley”, but the obit got me to thinking about him and Ghoulardi and all those other guys who seem to have died off or disappeared with the increasing corporatization of television. I missed this when I was young: as I’ve noted before, I was culturally deprived as a child. Also, I’m not sure we had any “horror hosts” in Houston. I do remember “Captain Harold’s Theater of the Sky”, but I don’t recall that fitting into the “horror host” genre. (Also, I would have sworn it was called “Captain Harold’s Theater of the Air” when I was growing up: is nostalgia a moron, or did the name change at some point?) This is another one of those things where I almost regret not watching those people when I was young, so that I could have grown up to be a famous horror writer with groupies and a cocaine problem, but I digress.

There is a guy on one of the nostalgia TV channels on Saturday night who seems to be trying to revive the Zacherley/Ghoulardi schtick. I don’t even know his name, but we’ve caught a few minutes of his show during movie night at Lawrence’s. The 51-year-old me says, frankly, he’s not very good. The 11-year-old boy inside me says, “Well, yeah, you think he’s not very good. But you’re a jaded 51-year-old man who is incapable of experiencing joy, and can watch things like…well, like “John Carpenter’s The Thing” anytime you feel like it. What about me? When you were my age, you would have lapped this stuff up like a thirsty man in the desert, bad puns and all!” The 51-year-old me thinks the 11-year-old me is being a little unfair with that “incapable of experiencing joy” comment, but he does have a point.

With all the old “horror hosts” dying away, and nobody seeming to replace them, who or what is fueling the imaginations of the 11-year-olds out there? What are they going to write or draw or film when they grow up? Who is educating them in the classics like “Island of Lost Souls” (about which, more, later), even if those classics are kind of chopped up?

What have we lost?

Obit watch: October 26, 2016.

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Bob Hoover, possibly the greatest pilot ever, has passed away at the age of 94.

I don’t think that statement is hyperbole, though I suspect I might get arguments from some people.

Even General Yeager, perhaps the most famous test pilot of his generation, was humbled by Mr. Hoover, describing him in the foreword to Mr. Hoover’s 1996 autobiography, “Forever Flying,” as “the greatest pilot I ever saw.”
The World War II hero Jimmy Doolittle, an aviation pioneer of an earlier generation, called Mr. Hoover “the greatest stick-and-rudder man that ever lived.”

“Well, if he was such a hot stick, why wasn’t he the one who broke the sound barrier?” Answer: because he got crosswise with his superiors for doing some unauthorized low-level flying, so they put him in the chase plane for Yeager. When Chuck freakin’ Yeager says, “I want you to have my back on this one”, well…there’s your sign.

“Nazis?” Yes:

As a pilot with the 52nd Fighter Group, based in Corsica, Mr. Hoover, a lieutenant, flew 58 successful missions before his Spitfire fighter was shot down by the Luftwaffe in February 1944. He spent 16 months in Stalag Luft I, a prisoner of war camp in Germany reserved for Allied pilots.
Mr. Hoover and a friend escaped from the camp in the chaotic final days of the war, according to his memoir. Commandeering an aircraft from a deserted Nazi base, they flew it to freedom in the newly liberated Netherlands, only to be chased by pitchfork-wielding Dutch farmers enraged by the plane’s German markings.

He went on to become a hugely popular performer on the air show circuit:

Mr. Hoover’s trademark maneuver on the show circuit was a death-defying plunge with both engines cut off; he would use the hurtling momentum to pull the plane up into a loop at the last possible moment.
But his stunts were not foolhardy. Each involved painstaking preparation and rational calculation of risk. “A great many former friends of mine are no longer with us simply because they cut their margins too close,” he once said.

I regret that I never saw him perform: somehow, it just never seemed that he came anywhere near me in Texas. (There’s video of part of his routine on the NYT page.)

I did read, and liked, Forever Flying. There’s a story in there that I sometimes pull out and tell to younger technicians who have messed up and feel bad about it.

The story goes: Mr. Hoover was flying back from an airshow and stopped to have his plane refueled. He took off again, and very shortly after takeoff, the engines quit. By dint of superior airmanship, he managed to land the plane: nobody on board was killed or even injured, but the plane was pretty much a total loss.

When Mr. Hoover removed the gas cap, he found out what the problem was: as I recall, the guy who filled the plane put in the wrong type of fuel. (I want to say he put in jet fuel instead of aviation gasoline, but don’t quote me on that: I don’t have the book in front of me.)

So Mr. Hoover hikes back to the airfield, and the guy who filled up the plane is staring off into the distance looking like the whole world has come down on him. Because he realizes he screwed up Bob Hoover’s plane.

And Mr. Hoover comes over, puts his arm around the guy, and says, “Son, I just want you to know: nobody was hurt. The plane got bent, but we can replace that. I have another plane coming in tomorrow morning, and when it gets here, I want you to be the one who puts fuel in it…

…because I know you’re never going to make that mistake again.”

By all accounts I’ve read and heard, he was a pretty kind gentleman, too. 94 is a good run, but the world is still a smaller, lesser place today.

Obit watch: September 1, 2016.

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

There’s a nice obituary in today’s Statesman for Tom Anderson, who passed away a few weeks ago.

Mr. Anderson was the carillon player at the University of Texas since…well, since Jesus was a private:

He played from 1952 until 1956 while a graduate student. In 1967, a year after he returned to UT to work in the international office, where he was assistant director, UT President Harry Ransom asked him to serve as carillonneur, and he continued to play until about three years ago.

I never met Mr. Anderson, but I remember when we toured the Tower some years back, he came up in conversation: the tour guide told us that he always said he was going to keep playing until he could no longer physically make the climb.

He was 93 when he died.

Marvin Kaplan has also passed away. He is perhaps best remembered as Henry Beesmeyer on “Alice”. though he was also in “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and “The Great Race”.

Finally, I intended to note this one earlier in the week, but the past few days have been hard. Jeremiah J. O’Keefe passed away on Tuesday. He was 93.

Mr. O’Keefe was a Corsair pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, the “Death Rattlers”. During the course of his first combat mission, on April 22, 1945, he shot down six enemy planes.

The squadron claimed 23 of the 54 Japanese planes downed that day. Two other Death Rattlers also scored five or more kills. Maj. Jefferson D. Dorroh Jr., the squadron’s executive officer, downed six planes. Maj. George C. Axtell Jr., the commanding officer, scored five. An article on the battle in Time magazine carried the headline “One Deal, Three Aces.”

Questions. We’ve got questions.

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Prompted by various things, including recent events and other people’s travels:

  1. Why did the FBI feel compelled to announce they’ve abandoned the search for D.B. Cooper?
    Is it possible they’re playing a long game here?
    “Olly olly oxen free. Come out, D.B. Cooper!”
    “Hi, I’m Dan Cooper.”
    “Hi, Dan. You’re under arrest.”
    “Hey, wait! That’s not fair! You called ‘olly olly oxen free’! No takebacks, you cheater!”
    (I would ask why they were still pursuing him after 45 years – I thought the statute of limitations would have run out long ago – but, per Wikipedia (I know, I know) there’s a John Doe indictment in absentia against Mr. Cooper.)
  2. More of a rhetorical question: I didn’t know there was a Cleveland Museum of Natural History. I don’t think I did, anyway: if I ever went, I was very young. I’ll have to make a point of going next time I’m up Cleveland way. (And it is my turn.)
  3. Speaking of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, why is Balto, the famous Alaskan sled dog who took the diptheria serum to Nome, in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History?
    (I know what the more or less “official” answer is: Balto died in what’s now the Cleveland Zoo. And why was Balto in Cleveland in the first place? Because the children of Cleveland and the Plain Dealer collected pennies to purchase Balto and the other dogs, because they were allegedly badly treated after being sold to a “dime museum”. It just seems odd. If George Kimble had been a resident of Houston, or a graduate of UT, would Balto be in Texas now?)
  4. Have I linked to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History before?
  5. Why doesn’t the CMNH want to return Balto to Alaska? I kind of get the idea that Alaska may have forfeited rights to Balto, given the way that he was supposedly treated. But I’m not sure I blame the state, or Balto’s first owner, for what they did. Also, it was a long time ago in another country: wouldn’t it be nice to give Balto back?
  6. Another rhetorical question: I was unaware of the Balto/Togo controversy. It wasn’t covered in the children’s book I read about the serum run when I was a lad. (In case you were wondering: Togo’s skin is in Alaska, while his skeleton is at Yale.)
  7. What’s Balto’s Bacon Number? The Oracle says 3. But I’m not convinced: if you were voiced by Kevin Bacon in an animated movie based on your life, shouldn’t that lower your Bacon number?
  8. There were three Balto movies?
  9. What was the name of that children’s book about the serum run, anyway? I know it was non-fiction, and I swear it had a blueish cover, but I can’t remember the name. I’d kind of like to find a copy.

Obit watch: June 23, 2016.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

David Thatcher has passed away at the age of 94.

Mr. Thatcher was the tail gunner in the “Ruptured Duck”, one of the 16 B-25s in the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan.

After the raid, the Duck crash-landed and several of the crew were injured. Mr. Thatcher tended their injuries.

Corporal Thatcher, the only crew member able to walk, joined with Chinese peasants and armed guerrillas to take the four injured airmen on a grueling five-day trek, by land and boat, to a hospital on the mainland, carrying them on stretchers and sedan chairs and managing to evade Japanese troops.

All of the crew evaded capture and eventually made it home, though the pilot (Ted Lawson, who also wrote Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a book I remember reading when I was very young) lost a leg.

As cited in James M. Scott’s book “Target Tokyo” (2015), Colonel Doolittle told Corporal Thatcher’s parents that “all the plane’s crew were saved from either capture or death as a result of his initiative and courage in assuming responsibility and in tending the wounded himself day and night.”
Corporal Thatcher was awarded the Silver Star for valor.

Mr. Thatcher’s death leaves one surviving crew member from the raid, Richard Cole, who was Doolittle’s co-pilot.

Obit watch: March 1, 2016.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

George Kennedy. NYT. A/V Club.

Yes, yes, Naked Gun. But also “Cool Hand Luke”.

And this thought isn’t original to me, though I don’t remember where I first encountered it: Joe Patroni had a rather interesting aviation career. He started out as a mechanic in “Airport“, and wound up pilot in command (?) of the Concorde nine years later. (I honestly don’t remember what he did in the other two “Airport” movies, but he was in them, and was the only actor to appear in all four.)

(Interestingly, Wikipedia says Kennedy was a pilot in real life.)

Edited to add: I intended to also mention (but ran out of time) Kennedy’s two police series:

  • “Sarge”, which I’m a little young to remember; I think we were watching “Five-0” at the time, anyway. But “Sarge”, as the Wikipedia entry notes, was showing up on RTN for a while as part of “The Bold Ones” wheel. (This is odd, as “Sarge” was really more of an “Ironside” spinoff.)
  • “The Blue Knight”, which should be closer to what I’m able to remember, but I don’t think I ever saw an episode of it. That’s odd, as it would have been right up my alley. I think it was right around this time that I read Wambaugh’s book

Obit watch: February 23, 2016.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

NYT obit for Eric Brown, legendary British pilot.

I linked to Borepatch’s post about him yesterday, but thought I would include the NYT obit just for the historical record.

Obit watch: August 21, 2015.

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Brigadier General Frederick Payne (USMC- ret.)

Gen. Payne was 104 when he died, and was the oldest surviving US fighter ace.

During two and a half weeks in 1942, from behind the guns of his Grumman F4F Wildcat flying over the Pacific near Guadalcanal, Mr. Payne, a major at the time, downed three Japanese bombers and two Zero fighters, having already shared credit with another pilot for bringing down an enemy bomber.

Gen. Payne received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions.

With Mr. Payne’s death, there are 71 surviving aces, said Arthur Bednar, coordinator of the American Fighter Aces Association.
According to Mr. Bednar, only 1,450 American pilots qualified to be called ace, a distinction reserved for pilots who downed at least five enemy planes in aerial combat during World Wars I and II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam; in addition, six aces are recognized from the Russian Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, the Sino-Japanese War and the Arab-Israeli War. Mr. Payne was credited with five and a half kills.

Obit watch: March 31, 2015.

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Robert L. Hite passed away on Sunday.

Lt. Col. Hite was one of Doolittle’s Raiders. He was captured by the Japanese after his plane ran out of fuel and the crew bailed out over China.

Mr. Hite was imprisoned for 40 months, 38 of them in solitary confinement. His weight had dropped to 76 pounds from 180 when the war ended.

Obit watch: special Hellcats Over the Pacific edition.

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Alex Vraciu passed away on January 29th, though his death does not seem to have been widely reported until this weekend.

Mr. Vraciu shot down 19 Japanese planes in eight months, and destroyed another 21 planes on the ground.

Mr. Vraciu (which rhymes with cashew) accomplished his most spectacular feat in the South Pacific when he shot down six dive bombers within eight minutes in what became known as the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” in the Philippine Sea. He called it “a once-in-a-lifetime fighter pilot’s dream.”

More:

Mr. Vraciu achieved his pace-setting six kills under harrowing conditions on June 19, 1944, as Japanese planes attacked a task force of American carriers and battleships. His plane’s folding wings were mistakenly unlocked, and a malfunctioning engine was spewing oil on his windshield and preventing him from climbing above 20,000 feet. Still, he downed the dive bombers firing only 360 of the 2,400 bullets in his arsenal.