Archive for the ‘Aviation’ Category

A Twentieth Century Icon – Howard Hughes

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

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.


Wednesday, February 24th, 2016


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.

Circular Contrails

Monday, December 21st, 2015

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.

LGBT Air Force

Sunday, December 6th, 2015


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?


Go back to Hollywood!

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

Powered Flight – 111th Anniversary

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

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

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

Flyover Country

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Flyover Country

This is the time of year when there are generally clear skies over central Arizona and the atmospheric conditions are conducive to forming contrails behind high-flying jet aircraft. Damsel and I see a lot more contrails than we did on the West Coast. In the image above, two jets pass in the distance behind our saguaro, one eastbound and one westbound. I snapped this picture as we were taking the dogs down the driveway for a little walk. Click on the image to enlarge.

We hope that everyone is off to a great New Year!

Air Force Facing Pilot Shortage

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

F-22 RaptorThe United States Air Force will be facing a shortage of fighter pilots in about eight years according to a story on Fox News website. The Air Force has started a program of offering a retention bonus of up to $225,000 to encourage pilots to stay on the job.

The Air Force is currently short some two hundred pilots with the shortage expected to grow to seven hundred at the eight year mark. Pilots are retiring citing reasons from war fatigue to having a menial jobs like flying remote drones rather than cockpit experience.

Another reason pilots quit is to take advantage of a boom in commercial airline pilot hiring. Here is an excerpt from Fox News:

Boeing estimates there will be a global need for 460,000 new commercial pilots over the next two decades, which will add to the need to woo the U.S. military’s ace pilots.

The FAA has also raised the qualification requirements for commercial co-pilots from 250 flying hours to 1500, making U.S. military-trained pilots with years of experience even more attractive.

I think a lot of military pilots are frustrated with Obama’s phony sequestration tantrums in which a third of active squadrons are grounded. God knows what a cesspool the military is turning into with this weak-tit of a Commander in Chief running the show.