Archive for the ‘Planes’ Category

Conspiracy theory of the day.

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870. I would have been 15 at the time, and I don’t remember hearing about this incident. Even better, the wrangling is still going on.

In brief, Flight 870 went down on June 27, 1980. It was a DC-9 flying between Bologna and Palermo, and crashed into the Tyrrhenian Sea, killing everyone.

Much of the wreckage was recovered, and there was an investigation. But the Italian government never released any kind of official accident report.

In 1989, the “Parliamentary Commission on Terrorism” issued a statement that Flight 870 was brought down in “an act of war, real war undeclared, a covert international police action against our country…”

Four generals in the Italian Air Force were charged with “high treason”; they were accused of obstructing the investigation. Two were acquitted; the other two were convicted, but their convictions were overturned on appeal.

Last year (yes, 2013), the Italian courts ruled that Flight 870 was shot down by a missile, and the government of Italy was ordered to compensate the families of the survivors.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry, and here’s the episode of “Air Crash Investigation” that set me on this path.

So what really happened? There seem to be three theories, two of which are missile related. Theory #1: Flight 870 was accidentally shot down during a joint Italian/U.S./French training exercise.

Theory #2: Flight 870 was shot down during a military mission also involving the French, U.S., and Italian forces. Specifically, the claim is that NATO forces were trying to kill Muammar al-Gaddafi (or some other “important Libyan politician”, as if there were any other “important Libyan politicians” in 1980), there was a dogfight with the Libyan Air Force, and Flight 870 was hit by a stray missile.

Theory #3, and the theory that seems to be endorsed by the air crash investigators and “Air Crash Investigation” (but notably not the Italian government): a terrorist bomb. The investigation team states that this theory is backed by the technical evidence they collected from the recovered wreckage. However:

It must be considered that the flight was delayed outbound from Bologna by almost three hours, so apparently the timer would have been set to actually cause an explosion at Palermo airport, or on a further flight of the same plane.

It also must be considered that if there was a device, it may not have been on a timer. It could have been set to be triggered at a specific altitude, or even at a certain time after a specific altitude was reached. On the other hand, I’m not sure how easy it would have been to do these things with 1980 technology. Also:

Parts of the discovered wreckage showed telltale signs of an outside explosion – some outer skin parts were shown to have blast residue on the outside with the metal curved inwards, uncharacteristic of a bomb (which would have curved the metal outwards as the force would have come from inside the plane outwards instead of out to in, like in the case of a missile). However, other pieces – especially the area around the rear lavatory, showed many signs of a bomb that exploded inside, such as the deformities of the surrounding support beams situated around the lavatory in question.

I’d really really like to see a cite for that.

And what is any good conspiracy theory without a list of “mysterious deaths”?

Pithy quote, from the “ACI” episode: “I’m sorry, but Italy is a dreadful place to have an aviation accident. If you want the truth you’re less likely to find it there than just about anywhere else in the world.”

Random notes: March 20, 2014.

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

The B-2, the B-2, the B-2 is on fire!

(We don’t need no water. Let the mother—-er fly!)

Exxon denies the allegations and defies the alligators.

Cahiers du cinéma: my most anticipated movie for 2014.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Lawrence asks me from time to time if there are any movies I’m looking forward to in the coming year.

Generally, my response is the same: I don’t pay that much attention to what’s coming six months from now, so I don’t have any anticipated movies in my queue. I don’t start looking forward to something until I hear about it and hear reviews (or even gossip) about it, which usually takes place maybe a month or so before the movie actually opens.

But now I have an exception. Or, to put it another way…

Holy crap! They’ve made a movie out of Charlie Victor Romeo!

I was lucky enough to see the stage version when it came through Austin. I’m glad I went, but I fully understand A.O. Scott’s comment that “It is also one of the most terrifying movies I have ever seen.” The stage version was…intense. So intense that the cast would come out after the show and have a discussion with the audience; I think this was to help both sides decompress.

Right now, it is only playing in New York. I’ve signed up for their mailing list and am hoping for an email with an Austin date sooner or later. To give you some idea about how excited I am: I’m even willing to relax my strict “Alamo Drafthouse only” policy for this movie.

(And RoadRich, if you’re out there, I want you to come with me when I go see it.)

Random notes: January 28, 2014.

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Yeah, yeah, Pete Seeger’s dead. A couple of reactions I liked: Tam. Travis McGee Reader.

One additional thing you have to like Pete for: giving a name to one of the great combat aircraft of our time.

How unethical do you have to be in order to be denied a law license in California? This unethical.

Or do you? I’ve seen a fair number of people posing this as Glass being unfairly denied a shot at redemption. After all, his crimes were nearly twenty years ago, they argue, and for the past ten years he’s not only kept his nose clean but done “exemplary” work as a clerk for a law firm.

And I’m not unsympathetic to the “shot at redemption” argument. I don’t hold any brief for Glass, or his behavior, and it bothers me a little that I’m more willing to give him that shot than I was Michael Vick. I need to search my soul a little more over this.

But the hand wringing is a little more offputting. Those arguing in favor of Glass seem to be missing some key findings:

The record also discloses instances of dishonesty and disingenuousness occurring after Glass’s exposure, up to and including the State Bar evidentiary hearing in 2010. In the New York bar proceedings that ended in 2004, as even the State Bar Court majority acknowledged, he made misrepresentations concerning his cooperation with The New Republic and other publications and efforts to aid them identify all of his fabrications. He also submitted an incomplete list of articles that injured others. We have previously said about omissions on bar applications: “Whether it is caused by intentional concealment, reckless disregard for the truth, or an unreasonable refusal to perceive the need for disclosure, such an omission is itself strong evidence that the applicant lacks the ‘integrity’ and/or ‘intellectual discernment’ required to be an attorney.” (Gossage, supra, at p. 1102, italics added.)


Our review of the record indicates hypocrisy and evasiveness in Glass’s testimony at the California State Bar hearing, as well. We find it particularly disturbing that at the hearing Glass persisted in claiming that he had made a good faith effort to work with the magazines that published his works. He went through many verbal twists and turns at the hearing to avoid acknowledging the obvious fact that in his New York bar application he exaggerated his level of assistance to the magazines that had published his fabrications, and that he omitted from his New York bar list of fabrications some that actually could have injured real persons. He also testified that he told his lawyer to work with Harper’s Magazine to identify his fabrications, yet evaded questions concerning whether his lawyer had done so, while insisting that he took responsibility for an inferred failure to follow what obviously were significant instructions. He asserted that he had been too distraught to recognize that the list of fabrications The New Republic gave his lawyer was incomplete — or that in his response he had denied that articles including the egregious Taxis and the Meaning of Work were in fact fabricated — while acknowledging that within a few days of his firing he made arrangements to reschedule a final examination for the end of the exam period and did well on the exam he took within a week of his exposure. Indeed, despite his many statements concerning taking personal responsibility, and contrary to what he suggested in his New York bar application, it was not until the California Bar proceedings that he shouldered the responsibility of reviewing the editorials his employers published disclosing his fabrications, thus failing to ensure that all his very public lies had been corrected publically and in a timely manner. He has “not acted with the high degree of frankness and truthfulness” and the “high standard of integrity” required by this process.” (Gossage, supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 1102, italics added.)

This strikes me as being less “a bunch of snobs who don’t want to let a reformed man in” and more “we found ongoing evidence of dishonesty and deceit by this person who is supposedly reformed and asking us for special consideration”.

I totally missed this one until today:

A Los Angeles jury on Tuesday convicted state Sen. Roderick D. Wright on all eight counts in his perjury and voter fraud trial…
In a trial that began Jan. 8, prosecutors accused Wright of faking a move to a rental property he owned in Inglewood so he could run in what was then the 25th Senate District.
They accused him of lying on voter registration and candidacy documents and of casting ballots in five elections he was not entitled to vote in from the Inglewood address.

(Sen. Wright’s party affiliation is actually mentioned in the second paragraph, which I trimmed for space reasons.)

TMQ Watch: January 21, 2014.

Friday, January 24th, 2014

It is official. It is now impossible for us to care any less about the Super Bowl (or, as some are calling it, “The Pot Bowl”) than we do now.

But we still have this week’s TMQ to get through after the jump…


Burning airlines give you so much more.

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Roberta X has a funny post up about the misadventures of a tank. (Not a tank car, or a tank of gas; a honest-to-goodness Chieftain tank.) You should really go read it when you get a chance.

This post is about something I found while reading the original tank story:

Evergreen International Airlines Inc., the troubled McMinnville-based cargo carrier, flew its final military flight last Friday and all remaining aircraft are now parked, according to a pilots’ union memo obtained by The Oregonian.

Evergreen International Airlines? Never heard of them? Why should you care?

Closure of the company — originally scheduled for last Saturday, but denied as false rumor by founder Delford Smith – would end a storied, three-decade history for the airline whose baggage includes close ties with the CIA. Evergreen once operated a global fleet of Boeing 747 cargo jets, running round-the-world flights and keeping a plane on standby for secret U.S. military missions.

Oh, so they were tied to Air America? Interesting. But there’s more. Evergreen, when times were good, put some money into non-profit organizations. One of those organizations is the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, which is notable for having a SR-71 and the Spruce Goose.

Managers say the attractions will remain open. But the Oregon Department of Justice is investigating them for alleged commingling of funds between Evergreen’s profit and nonprofit arms, and Smith may have put up some of the planes in the museum as collateral being claimed by creditors.

Oh, dear. Wikipedia has Evergreen shut down as of November 30th:

Hines told The Oregonian Monday the company was still operating and managers hoped to save it. But an airline can’t function after letting go its operations director and closing its dispatch center, which workers and former employees say occurred at McMinnville headquarters Monday.

So what’s going to happen? Will they sell off the planes? Would you like to buy a 747 used by the CIA? (More seriously, Evergreen also has a 747 that’s been modified for firefighting purposes.)

…former managers say Evergreen has long depended on heavy borrowing, leasing most or all of its aircraft and engines, many of which are now being claimed by creditors.

And even better:

Creditors seeking millions of dollars in damages have filed numerous lawsuits, some of which have produced default judgments as Evergreen lawyers fail to show up in court.

I wonder if the lawyers aren’t showing up because they’re not getting paid.

However, Evergreen does have a FAA issued “airline certificate”. I’ll admit, I’m a little fuzzy on the whole “certificate” thing (RoadRich, you out there somewhere?), but as best as I can put it together, the “airline certificate” gives you FAA authorization to run an airline.

Unless Smith has already sold the rights separately, Evergreen’s certificate may include authority for the holder to fly cargo routes to and from Asia, Latin America and elsewhere. At one time Evergreen had authority to fly almost anywhere, and it may still.

So to heck with buying a 747, you can have an entire airline and fly almost anywhere in the world!

However, a buyer could only acquire the certificate if it bought the airline, which would come with mountains of debt.

Oh. Also, with the certificate and the airline, you also get the pilot’s union, which may or may not be a problem, given that Evergreen is $1.4 million behind in contributions to the pension plan.

But other than those minor issues, this sounds like a great chance to make a small fortune in the aviation industry. That is, if you have a large fortune to start with.

And where did we get such men?

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Brigadier General Robinson Risner (USAF- ret.) has died.

General Risner, who was promoted to the rank of brigadier general at his retirement in 1976, was shot down in September 1965 during a mission to destroy a missile site. Then a lieutenant colonel, he turned out to be the highest-ranking officer at Hoa Lo Prison, which American prisoners of war called the Hanoi Hilton. For the first five years — after which higher-ranking officers came to the prison — he helped organize inmates to make complaints about the conditions and to boost morale.

General Risner spent a total of seven and half years in Hoa Lo Prison, more than three of those in solitary confinement.

One of his major acts of defiance was helping to organize a church service in 1971, even though he knew he would be punished. As guards led him away to yet another spell in solitary confinement, more than 40 P.O.W.’s sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” to show support. He was later asked how he felt at that moment.
“I felt like I was nine feet tall and could go bear hunting with a switch,” he said. In 2001, a nine-foot-tall statue of General Risner was installed at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to commemorate that declaration.

Obit watch: September 20, 2013.

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.

–Captain A. G. Lamplugh (pulled from here)

No snark here.

David Riggs’s body has been recovered from a lake in China. Riggs crashed his plane on Tuesday “while performing a stunt in which the wheels of the aircraft grazed the surface to produce a skiing effect”.

An 18-year-old Chinese woman who was working as Riggs’ translator was also killed in the crash.

Why is this noteworthy here? Two reasons:

  1. Ah! Now I know why those planes looked familiar! (Okay, those were L-29s and that’s an L-39. But I’m still pretty sure that’s why.)
  2. And why did I recognize the L-39? Because I’ve written about it, and David Riggs, before.

He twice buzzed the Santa Monica Pier in 2008 and twice lost his aviation license, most recently in November 2012, as a result of an accident in which another plane crashed in the Nevada desert.

Paraphrasing a famous quote, to lose your license once can be regarded as bad luck, to lose it twice smacks of carelessness.

Obit watch: September 3, 2013.

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Several sources, including SF Signal, are reporting the death yesterday of noted SF writer Frederik Pohl. I hope to have more on this later.

Paul Poberezny, founder of the Experimental Aircraft Association, passed away on August 22nd, though the NYT didn’t get around to mentioning it until today. He was 91 years old, and his life “spanned more than 70 years of flight at the controls of more than 500 different types of aircraft“.

Damn. What a ride.

I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone.

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Well, not really “gone”. I hadn’t been back to Ohio for nine years, and it amazed me somewhat both how much and how little has changed.

For example, there’s an entire grocery chain that I don’t remember from my last trip…that takes the Discover card and cash. No Visa/AmEx/MasterCard/Diner’s Club, not even debt cards with a PIN, just cash and Discover. Who came up with this idea?

On the other hand, the tractor tire store that was a landmark on the way to Grandma’s place is still there, after 40 something years. And Grandma’s place still feels remote from everything, even though there’s major strip centers at the end of her road, and even though much of the land was sold off over the past few years (and now has houses sitting on it).

And the old NASA hanger is still visible from the airport. That was another landmark for us kids. (My dad worked there, back when it was still the Lewis Research Center, before it was renamed “NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field“. Which is a mouthful. Not that I’m bitter or anything over the renaming; by gosh, if anyone deserved to have a NASA facility named after him, it was John Glenn.)

This is shaping up to be a long post, and sort of “stream of consciousness”, so I’m going to put the rest of it behind a jump. Before I do, here’s Grandma’s obituary, just for the record.


Random notes: May 29, 2013.

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

The NYT is absolutely indignant that the ceremonial throwing out of the first pitch at baseball games has evolved from a…

…honor was extended only a few times a season to a rarefied group that included presidents, mayors and military veterans. These days, it is regarded as a marketing opportunity, a sweetener in sponsorship deals between baseball teams and groups that want a piece of the spotlight.

In other news, water is wet and fire is hot. More:

The rite, now carried out nightly, is handed to actors and reality television stars, sponsors’ representatives and contest winners, and people dressed as animals as well as actual animals.

A capuchin monkey carried the ball out for a San Diego Padres game in September. Twice in the last two seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers have welcomed to the mound Hello Kitty, or, rather, a person dressed as Hello Kitty.

Sometimes, there are ceremonial second, third, fourth and fifth pitches. The day after making his major league debut this month, John Gast, a promising pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, crouched up and down to catch five pitches. The honorees that day were Edward Jones, a financial planning company; the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; the Washington University School of Medicine; a local radio station; and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Question left unanswered by the paper of record: do the ceremonial second, third, fourth, and fifth pitches cost less for the sponsors than the first pitch?

Also in the NYT: Antoni Krauze, a Polish film director, is working on a feature film called “Smolensk” about the 2010 plane crash that killed the Polish president and 95 other people. But “some leading Polish actors have refused to participate”, and the NYT sees this, and other events, as reflecting deep divisions in Poland over the crash.

The range of conspiracy theories is dizzying. So-called truthers accuse the Kremlin of pumping artificial fog over the runway, planting explosives on the plane and doctoring and then sewing victims’ bodies back together in fake autopsies. Some even contend that the Kremlin murdered Kaczynski because he had traveled to Georgia in 2008 to support that country in its war with Russia.

Just one more thing…

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

As long as we’re talking about Lawrence’s review of General Idi Amin Dada, I have a question that’s bugging me, and I know I have some aviation buffs in my audience.

What are these planes? I apologize for the pictures: they are actually screen snapshots from the DVD, and I tried to get ones that showed the best possible angles. Click to embiggen.




Lawrence suggested they might be MiGs, and I know the Ugandan Air Force had MiG-15s and MiG-17s. But both the 15 and 17 have a really blunt open nose, while these planes have a more rounded one. I don’t think these are Fouga Magisters either, because they lack the V-tail. I believe these are some sort of two seat jet trainer, and they may be French. But I can’t tell, and it really bugs me that I can’t figure it out. Maybe if I’m lucky Tam will see this. For some reason, I’ve also got in my head that the good and great Brian Dunbar knows his planes. And, of course, there’s RoadRich…

Okay. I lied. One more “one more thing”, just because this amuses me, and I’m pretty sure it amused Lawrence as well.

The Suicide Revolutionary Jazz Band

(Okay, one last thing. It irritates the fire out of me that Apple disabled screen captures from DVD Player in the Grab utility. And they don’t just throw up a “You can’t do this” popup: Grab lets you do the capture, but the resulting file is just a checkerboard grey and white pattern. Fortunately, VLC will a) playback DVDs, and b) even has a built-in “Snapshot” menu option. Hurray open source.)