Archive for Aviation

Lenticular Clouds

Lenticular Clouds

As we were taking our evening stroll Damsel and I were watching the sky since there were still a few isolated thunder cells around us. There were a few raindrops falling from a small cloud overhead and a rainbow was partially visible almost straight up.

In the distance east of us (seen in the image), we observed a few lenticular (altocumulus lenticularis) clouds in the lee of the Bradshaw and Weaver mountain ranges to the north of us. The flow (as observed from our position on the ground and on radar on the computer) was from north to generally south.

We also observed what appeared to be some commercial air traffic being diverted from (my guess based on the direction of travel) Phoenix Sky Harbor to McCarran Las Vegas due to a large cell in the Phoenix Metro area. I feel for the crew and passengers on such flights for (a) the inconvenience of the diversion and (b) the turbulent ride they certainly would encounter under the observed conditions.

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Orville and Wilbur Day 2016

First Flight

Today marks the 113th anniversary of the famous Wright Brothers flights at Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. Their first flights, however primitive, opened the door to aviation technology that has flourished since then.

From Wikipedia:

The Wright brothers, Orville (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912), were two American brothers, inventors, and aviation pioneers who are generally credited with inventing, building, and flying the world’s first successful airplane. They made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft on December 17, 1903, four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In 1904–05 the brothers developed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.

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A Twentieth Century Icon - Howard Hughes

Howard R. Hughes, Jr. 1904-1976Between 1965 and 1980, I was employed at Hughes Aircraft Company, generally at the Culver City Facility that contained both the Hughes Aircraft Company (which developed and built electronics systems) and the Hughes Tool Company (which developed and built aircraft and a few oil drilling tools). Sort of backwards, I know, but so were a lot of things in the Hughes Empire.

I found the long-lost poster seen at the right today when I was opening a picture frame to scan in a certificate I earned in my Ham Radio activities (DXCC for those who know) and found the poster was in the same picture frame. Frankly, I cannot remember putting it in there, but there it was in near-perfect condition. I scanned in my certificate (for another purpose) and also this poster, since I was scanning.

IMAGE: Iconic Howard Hughes portrait along with some of the Hughes legacy icons. Click on the image to enlarge to poster size.

Since I was suddenly dropped into the topic of the famous Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., I went out to Wikipedia and looked him up. I found an extremely interesting entry about Hughes’ life and times, much of which I had been previously unaware. It was intriguing and I was riveted to reading it all the way through, disregarding the references, of course. I can’t attest to all of it being true, but since I was there towards the end of Hughes’ life, I know some of it is gospel.

I never met the man, but others I knew and trusted told me of times when they had seen him come to Culver City for various visits in which they had caught a glimpse or two of the man. He had mostly gone full reclusive after I had been there a year or two.

If you’re interested in icons like Hughes, I recommend reading the Wikipedia Article (disclaimer - I can’t guarantee any of it is true, but it IS interesting). Bonus - Click here for some Spruce Goose coverage.

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Ultralight

Ultralight

Around the first week in December, I posted an image of an ultralight aircraft overhead at our little desert casita. Today, I had just finished delivering a package to the local UPS pickup point, when a pickup truck pulled in the parking lot with this contraption strapped in the bed.

Looking at the image I posted before, I can not positively say whether this is the same aircraft. This one has blue paint around the propeller shroud while the other one (seen in the inset) seems to have silver or white paint in that area.

I think that it is interesting that the pickup has a silhouette of a parafoil aircraft stenciled on the side, possibly indicating that there is a commercial enterprise associated with the two guys in the truck and the aircraft. Perhaps they are here for the rodeos that take place almost every weekend and on some weekdays.

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Circular Contrails

Circular Contrails

We frequently see condensation trails over the desert, but they almost always appear in straight lines or showing a minor dog leg over an airways facility or when vectored. Today, Damsel called me out to the courtyard to witness these circular contrails being painted as we watched.

All I can figure is that these were military aircraft making high-altitude maneuvers. The aircraft involved were due south of our location, possibly directly over Luke AFB or one of the outlying training facilities near the Northwest Valley of the Sun.

Shortly after our morning observation of these unusual sky circles, they all sublimated away and have not been seen again. Click on Damsel’s image to enlarge.

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LGBT Air Force

LGBT AF

While walking the dogs on Saturday, we heard a peculiar-sounding aircraft noise. When we looked, we saw this flying lawn chair attached to a giant fan pendulously hanging beneath an ultralight rainbow parafoil. My only thought at the time was that I did not know that the LGBT community had their own Air Force Flagship. And what are they doing here in the high desert?

Weird.

Go back to Hollywood!

I apologize for the low-res photo. I only had my little pocket camera. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Powered Flight - 111th Anniversary

A hundred and eleven years ago today, Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first flights from Kill Devil Hill, close to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Their history-making effort sparked the greatest period of technology in the United States and abroad.

I took my first flying lesson on December 16th, 1961, just a day short of their 58th anniversary. By then, the sound barrier had been broken, satellites were in orbit, the Russian, Yuri Gagarin had already orbited the Earth, and John Glenn would be in orbit within a couple of months. It was a great time to get into a career in aviation or aerospace.

First Flight

What makes Wilbur and Orville Wright’s achievement so significant is not only that it was the first time in history that a manned, powered aircraft completed a fully-controlled, sustained flight, but it proved to naysayers around the world that heavier-than-air flight was practical. After the Wrights proved their critics wrong, the field of aeronautical engineering was born. Governments, universities, and inventors soon began dedicating vast resources to understanding the science of flight and methods of building improved flying machines. In essence, every event and discovery in aviation either led up to or followed from the flight of the Wright Flyer, and it changed the way we live forever.

Image and text courtesy of AeroSpaceWeb.org.

Note: This article originally appeared here on December 17, 2007, and has been modified for the 111th anniversary of powered flight.

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