1951: My Last Flight

On the twenty-ninth of June 1951 my active flying career ended with a tight full 360° turn.

1280px-Grunau_Baby
The Grunau Baby in a wee turn [Wiki]
As he let me know afterwards in no uncertain terms, my flying instructor, Mr. Lucassen, thought it very unwise of me to initiate that turn right in front of the landings strip at a height of 150 meters. “You could have easily killed yourself”, he said. “I have warned you time and time again that steep turns at that low an altitude are asking for serious trouble. You are an unreliable glider pilot – I strongly advise you to take up other activities in your spare time.”
I could have argued that the landing after the turn had been all right. In fact, my whole flight had been quite successful. After the start, at a height of two hundred fifty meters I had been able to detect at least two thermal updrafts and by circling sharply and timely I had been able to use them to gain at least two hundred meters altitude. I had made my turns tight and had listened intently to the whistle of the wind to make sure I was not loosing speed. For the same reason I had kept the nose of my plane a fixed safe minimal distance below the horizon. I had also looked at my instruments and kept the little ball in the middle. My whole flight went rather well and had lasted a full thirty minutes. Then it was time to land and I misjudged – I came in too high. I decided, wrongly, that one more turn would fix me. The turn by itself went alright and when I exited from it I straightened out and landed in mid-field without having to use the air brakes. So…

Turn_and_slip
Turn Indicator [Wiki]
In my heart, however, I knew Lucassen was right. To be frank, when flying solo, I was always scared of the landing and my pleasure in flying was spoiled by the fear of that what was to come with certainty at the finale: the touchdown. Coming in too low would be a disaster of course. My friend Herman R. had hit a bill board last year while coming in over the provincial road to Maarn. A lot of splintering wood had absorbed the shock and he had lived to tell stories about it. But coming in too high could also be most embarrassing: touching ground at the far end of the field invited acid comments from the ground crew that had to come and pick you up and the long run to the start area while holding up the wing tip  was far from pleasant. Unfortunately, with gliders, once you have started a landing, you cannot abort the approach. Giving full throttle and coming round for a second try was no option. Your approach had to be just right the first time.
So on that fateful day, after having completed my qualifying flight for the C-brevet (which I did not receive), I was much too high for a landing and actually precariously low for loosing some of the height with a nice 360 degree turn. Low turns are dangerous. One might by mistake loose too much height by banking too steeply or slide into a stall.  The stall, if not corrected in time, may go over into a tail spin and a tail spin at that low height would be fatal. I knew Lucassen was right. So I never flew again except as a cattle-passenger in over-crowded airliners.
Ir. Lucassen of course knew what he was talking about. He was fifteen years my senior and a staff member of NLR, the Dutch Aviation Research agency. As I found out much later on the meticulous web site of Herman Dekker, Ir. Lucassen had been in some remarkable crashes himself. On the 21st of October 5 years earlier, he had attempted a cable start with heavy crosswind. To compensate this, the Grunau Baby had banked into the wind with the star board wing tip close to the ground. When he had released the cable from the winch at low height, the sailplane had continued to turn and slammed into the ground. Ir. L. fortunately was unhurt but the fuselage of the Baby had been badly cracked up. So he knew what he was talking about.

194710250
The Accident Report of Ir. Lucassen

 

I took the advice and abandoned piloting myself. I decided not to pursue a career as a commercial pilot. A lifetime later I found in the same excellent database of Mr. Dekker the particulars of a deadly crash of a Dutch glider plane in 1979. The pilot, Mr. R.A.N. 22 years, had started a full turn at too low an altitude (250m) and had not survived. After stalling he got into a spin from which he could not recover. He had been told by his instructor to fly his Sagitta glider near minimum speed and land within a target area. However the weather had been hazy and the horizon had not been visible. Nor had the plane been equipped with an artificial horizon instrument. A deadly pea soup. Mr. R.A.N. died in the resulting crash.

I shivered – Lucassen had been so right – some of us stay better on the ground altogether.

003-9e
The Sagitta glider crash

see:  http://www.hdekker.info/DIVERSEN/SAGITTA003.htm

 

 

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1670: METAL SPHERES IN THE SKY

800px-Magdeburg
[from Wikipedia]
The ancient peoples of Babylon and Egypt have presented us with many valuable scientific and technical innovations. In the fields of arithmetic, geometry and astronomy they made major contributions and in the art of erecting barehanded buildings from huge stone blocks they are unsurpassed to this day. But as far as I know they did not get involved in the theory of gases, nor did they build machines to conquer the sky.

The history of the balloon starts with Greece, where Archimedes (287-212 B.C.) formulated the principles of sinking, rising and floating and Hero (20? A.D.) invented the plunger type water pump. In our own seventeenth century there was Torricelli (1608-1647), who demonstrated the phenomenon of a vacuum by upending a long glass tube filled with mercury and Von Guericke (1602-1686) who adapted Hero’s pump to pump air. In this way he could evacuate his famous Magdeburger Half Spheres and demonstrate the surprising force exerted by the pressure of the column of air above us.

One result of all these experiments with vacuum was that the idea that air had weight became generally accepted.
Magdeburger balls emptied of their inside air were somewhat lighter than air-filled ones. Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608-1679, see my previous post), Italian physiologist, mathematician and friend of Galileo, speculated that if one would make very light spheres, for instance out of very thin copper plate and draw all the air from their insides, they would float in the air according to the law of Archimedes. Unfortunately spheres formed out of very thin plate would not be able to withstand the atmospheric pressure from outside and would be flattened by it.

Flying_boat
[from Wikipedia]
Undaunted by considerations like these the Jesuit father Lana de Terzi (1631-1687), who longed to go to heaven, made the same fatal flaw in his thinking. In his book ‘Prodromo Overo Saggio de Alcune’ of 1670 he describes a true ship of the air, an open gondola lifted by four copper spheres of almost 25 feet diameter that have no air inside. The ship is drawn forward by a span of twelve geese. De Lana was probably the first to be concerned that this invention, like all other man made instruments, could be misused for war. An airship such as this would make war even more brutal and horrifying than de Lana had experienced in his own lifetime. He therefore concluded that God would prevent the construction of this sort weapons. He certainly was he a naive optimist.

Of course his idea of the twelve geese was endearing. In flight it must have looked somewhat like the picture hereafter, which shows the Canadian Joseph Duff flying southward with a flock of cranes that have as much trust in their pilot as de Lana had in his god.

whoopcrane
[from link below]
Do read:

https://centennialjournalism.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/operation-migration-founder-still-flying-to-save-endangered-birds-whooping-cranes-not-canada-geese/

July 2015: CALGARY LAWN CHAIR BALLOONS

CalgaryLawnChair2015

On Sunday July 5th, while enjoying my time at the beach, Daniel Boria, age 26, was floating over the Calgary stampede grounds carried aloft  by 110 helium filled balloons while sitting in a lawn chair.
Our fascination with balloons goes back a long time, to Francisco Lana-Terzi [1631-1687] or maybe even earlier, to Giovanni Alfonso Borelli as decribed by that famous science (fiction) writer Isaac Asimov [1920-1992]:[1]

220px-Giovanni_Alfonso_Borelli

BORELLI,  Giovanni Alfonso
Italian mathematician and physiologist
Born: Naples, June 28, 1608
Died: Rome, December 31, 1679

“Borelli was a professor of mathematics and a friend of Galileo. His life, though not characterized by the controversies of his great friend, was not entirely smooth. In 1674 he had to leave Messina, the Sicilian city in which he was then teaching, and retire to Rome, where he remained under the protection of Chris­tina, former queen of Sweden. (This was the queen whose eccentric habits had brought on the death of Descartes [1596-1650]. She abdicted in 1654 and was received into the Roman Catholic Church the following year, after which she settled in Rome.)

Borelli corrected some of Galileo’s overconservation. Galileo [1564-1642] had neglected Kepler’s [1571-1630] elliptical or­bits, but now Horrocks [1618-1641] had extended them even to the moon, and Borelli rescued the ellipses, publici­zing and popularizing them.

He tried to extend the vague notions of Galileo and Kepler concerning the attractive forces between the sun and the planets, but was not successful. He tried also to account for the motion of Jupiter’s satellites by postulating an attractive force for Jupiter as well as for the sun. In this he (and Horrocks also at about this time) made a tentative step in the direction of universal gravitation, but the theory had to wait a generation for Newton [1642-1726].

Borelli suggested (under pseudonym) that comets tra­velled in parabolic orbits, passing through the solar system once and never returning. (The parabola, like the ellipse, was first studied by Apollonius [261-190 BC]. A parabola is an open curve something like a hairpin.) Any body following a parabolic path would approach the sun from infinite space, round it, and recede forever. Such an orbit would explain the erratic behavior of comets, without completely disrupting the orderliness of the universe.

Borelli understood the principle of the balloon, pointing out that a hollow copper sphere would be buoyant when evacuated, if it were thin enough, but that it would then collapse under air pressure.
It did not occur to him that collapse could be avoided if a lighter-than-air gas were used to fill the sphere as, in essence, the Montgolfier brothers [1740-1810 and 1745-1799] were to do a century and a half later.”
—————–
[1] Isac Asimov: Biographical Encoclopedia of Science and Technology (chronically ordered); 805 p. Avon Books, 1976

2015; spring – WORK IN PROGRESS

McDonnell_Douglas_Long_Beach YC-15The McDonnell Douglas YC-15 under construction at Long Beach CA
(this was some time ago).

Also some time ago:
Sikorsky S-38 at OshkoshPhotographed at Oshkosh: the Sikorsky S-38

castawayMarch23 f

I wonder if she can land at Newport Beach and pick us up.
We’ll climb aboard and  fly with her for ever west into the setting sun

Meanwhile we are working on an update of the Willy Fiedler story
(see: From Fledermaus to Polaris). Anybody who has memories of Willy or documents about his work is invited to contact us.

2015: ATERRISSAGE – HAPPY LANDING

Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow. Langston Hughes
Huntington Beach,  California

The Ocean,

the beginning and the end.

479px-Maxwell_B-24
Consolidated B-24 Liberator

I wonder who will be coming to pick us up.

This big boy from San Diego?

It has a wonderful wing.  Its hull is from a flying boat.

It can’t land here. Just casing the place, I suppose.

Flugzeug Blohm & Voß BV 238 V1
Blohm & Voss BV-238 (100 tons)

The biggest one built in Germany, in Bremen, during the war.  It might be able to land here.

Rumor had it that Der Führer was planning to escape with it to Argentina.

I bet its designer, Dr. Vogt, never thought he would end up close by here, in Santa Barbara.

Martin M130
Glenn-Martin M-130 Clipper

The best one ever built.
It conquered  the Pacific

Latecoere 521 Flying Boat12A

As Boeing knows: never underestimate the French

H-4_Hercules_2
Hughes / Kaiser HK-1 Spruce Goose

This one is retired now in Oregon.

Pity it never really flew.

400px-Australian_pelican_in_flight

This one still flies.

May it outlive us all.

Au Revoir!

Ω

1934: A PLANE IS NOT A SHIP

Revolutionary Sikorsky S-42 (1934)
Revolutionary Sikorsky S-42 (1934)

Sikorsky’s factory in Stratford Connecticut completed its first S-42 airliner/flying boat in March 1934 and Igor Sikorsky took at the earliest opportunity the mail boat to Southampton to promote his revolutionary clean looking flying machine in the Old World. His first stop was London where he delivered a glowing lecture with epidiascope projections to the Royal Aeronautical Society. His new ship was fast and it could move passengers far. In fact in the years that followed, Pan American Airways bought ten of them and used them to conquer the Pacific Ocean. The British aviation bigwigs and tech wizards listened in polite astonishment. Igor gave a glowing account of his breakthrough in the design dilemmas that had for thirty years produced only ugly-looking mechanical flying things with a multitude of wings, struts and wires.

Ugly Short S-14 Sarafand (1932)
Ugly Short S-14 Sarafand (1932)

Sikorsky had now created a roomy airplane with a single sleek small wing and four beautifully mounted engines. It carried 12 passengers with ease over 2000 miles and it could alight gently at 65 mph on the tops of the rolling waves. Its cruising speed was 160 miles per hour and Igor repeatedly pointed out how this speed in combination with the high wing load made for a comfortable ride, relatively insensitive to wind gusts and sudden vertical up and down air drafts.

IGOR I. SIKORSKY (1889-1972)IGOR I. SIKORSKY    (1889-1972)

The British listened with polite amazement and suppressed skepticism. “We don’t really need speed”, said Mr. Horace Short, the builder of England’s famous double-breasted multi-wing lumbering patrol boats during the discussion afterwards.”When we need speed we’ll have Supermarine win the Schneider Cup or Messrs. de Havilland will build the Comet for winning the Melbourne race. We focus on other things.” He meant safety, a slow landing speed. And it must be said, his boats had an enviable safety record (but could not cross the ocean).
Mr. M.Langley inquired whether Mr. Sikorsky had used Imperial or US Gallons in his specifications. He apparently couldn’t believe the figures and the British ones were a good deal larger.
As to performance, Mr. W.O. Manning conceded frankly that Mr. Sikorsky had put the flying boats used by Imperial Airways completely out of date. He then proceeded to produce a global new design on the lines of the S-42 and showed its superiority.
Major R.E. Penney thought the secret of Mr. S.’s boat could be found in the enormous amount of detail work, the fairing up of the details so that the combined resistances had been reduced to an absolute minimum.

Phoebastria_albatrus (picture: Wiki)
Phoebastria_albatrus (picture: Wiki)

Mr. Scott-Hall mentioned in passing that albatrosses (the birds) had a large wing load but they had trouble getting themselves up in the air. And so there was a lot of back and forth talk about speed and small wings.
Until finally Major F. Green hit on the real issue: “Let’s not overlook the fact that a small wing saves a substantial amount of weight”. And here was of course the quintessence: instead of carrying wing, the airplane could now carry fuel and people. But even Igor did not seem to quite grasp the point. He came back to the subject of speed. “There is no doubt”, he stated, “that planes of great weight, capable of non-stop ocean flights, cruising between 150 to 200 miles per hour, can be designed at this time and be ready for service within two and a half to three years. Greater cruising speeds are possible, but the size of the earth does not warrant greater speeds. The progress of air transportation will benefit more if designers will give more attention to increased passenger comfort and ways and means to lower transportation costs rather than greater speed.”
Well now, would that really be possible Mr. Sikorsky? Are speed and economics independent quantities?
A cat is not a dog and a plane is not a ship.

for the full text of Igor Sikorsky’s lecture, click:  https://ritstaalman.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/sikorskya.pdf
see also Part III of Early Atlantic Airliners:  ATLAIRpart3
for books on the conquest of the Atlantic by air: http://www.Lindbergh-aviation.de atta12e9

1933: High Fashion in Wings

We exchanged some polite remarks while we heaved our bags in the rack above us and sought our proper place. We just fitted in our seats together: the blonde lady in sweater and jeans at the window, I in the middle and to my right the middle aged guy in safari jacket with long hair in a ponytail… Then we underwent in silence the start of the machine and the handout of some gorgeous delicacies like peanuts wrapped in tiny little plastic bags.

picture by Monica Staalman
picture by Monica Staalman

After a while the plane had climbed to cruising height and I bent forward to the left to look out of the window. I saw an elegant upward turned wing tip against the hard blue expansion of the universe and the faintly curved horizon of our planet.
“Isn’t it amazing?”  the lady smiled at me – “how we are sitting here crunching peanuts above the world?”
“It’s stunning,” I agreed. – “I was also observing the wing tip. There seems to be a fashion nowadays to bend them upward.”
“Well dear, it’s all about saving fuel you know. The proper shape may give you an extra 3 or 4 per cent range. It all counts with the present fuel prices.” (This conversation took place some years ago).
“How can that be?”
She explained: “The wings leave behind a corkscrew of whirling air, one at each side. It is an air vortex. In a way you may say that the airplane pulls the vortex forward. The bigger the vortex, the more energy it takes from the plane. With careful design of the wing tip the engineers try to make the generation of the vortex more gradual, less violent, see?” She looked at me and smiled.

this magnificent picture is from NASA, via Wiki. See note below
this magnificent picture is from NASA, via Wiki. See note below

“Yeah,” the man to my right added -“and these vortices are bloody dangerous for the little guy who is flying behind them. You better stay out of the wake of the big ones…”
And so it turned out to be a pleasant flight for all of us. The safari chap ordered a meal and offered me his dessert because he was, as he explained, a diabetic. The lady at the window knew more about airplanes than any of us. And I told them about Willy Fiedler who had built and flown a sailplane in 1933 with vertical wing tips and no fin at the tail. I even showed them a picture on my i-phone.
They were properly impressed.

We spent the rest of the flight with pleasurable chitchat. However, as always when flying, I lost my new friends at the Luggage Claim.  If we had traveled by steamship we would probably still be in contact now.

1933: Aka Flug Stuttgart F-1 Fledermaus, design Willy Fiedler

1933: Aka Flug Stuttgart F-1 Fledermaus, design Willy Fiedler

See also:

https://earlyflightera.com/from-fledermaus-to-polaris/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wingtip_device

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wake_turbulence where you will find:

DescriptionAirplane vortex edit.jpg (see earlier picture)
Date  4 May 1990
English: Wake Vortex Study at Wallops Island
The air flow from the wing of this agricultural plane is made visible by a technique that uses colored smoke rising from the ground. The swirl at the wingtip traces the aircraft’s wake vortex, which exerts a powerful influence on the flow field behind the plane. Because of wake vortex, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires aircraft to maintain set distances behind each other when they land. A joint NASA-FAA program aimed at boosting airport capacity, however, is aimed at determining conditions under which planes may fly closer together. NASA researchers are studying wake vortex with a variety of tools, from supercomputers, to wind tunnels, to actual flight tests in research aircraft. Their goal is to fully understand the phenomenon, then use that knowledge to create an automated system that could predict changing wake vortex conditions at airports. Pilots already know, for example, that they have to worry less about wake vortex in rough weather because windy conditions cause them to dissipate more rapidly.

airplane construction interbellum Rohrbach