Overrun, underrun, let’s call the whole thing off

The media has a funny definition of overrun. I just checked and there’s not one story about the Air Canada Halifax crash that says ‘underrun’, which is what happened, and I think most people would come away from the initial story believing the aircraft landed normally but then skidded off the end of the runway in the midst of a snowstorm. That’s what I figured at first.

In reality, it wasn’t one of those runway excursions – isn’t that a pleasant phrase, by the way? “Oh, yes, we had a lovely off-runway journey, but the narration by the flight attendants was a bit loud, I must say.” In fact, it crashed short of the runway, much like the Asiana San Francisco accident but in bad weather at night, not a beautiful CAVU day in San Francisco – not that bad weather is a good reason for a too-low approach, mind you. The power lines it clipped, blacking out the airport, were well before the threshold of the runway, and I’ll wager a crisp new one dollar bill that all the red bits you see in this photograph are parts of the localiser antenna array that’s also before the start of the runway.

Air Canada Halifax

Edited to add several hours later:

The TSB says the A320 did hit the antenna array and touched down 1,100 feet short. The idea that it overran the end of the runway apparently came from Air Canada’s unslick use of antisocial media.

Because no one had anything more than minor injuries, I’m inclined to be cheeky and so will mention that 1,100 feet works out to almost three ballparks in baseball terms. I’ve also worked out on the back of the same envelope that the crew will not be receiving a cigar on this occasion.

Alas, it would be wishful thinking to hope that anyone will ever go back and correct this caption and hundreds of others in the same vein. I’m going to wager another dollar that they will live on in error forever.

Wrong Caption

Come to think of it, maybe Air Canada’s use of antisocial media was actually pretty slick, even if unintentionally so. It was probably not active preemptive misdirection, but it will likely result in most remembering that the aircraft simply slid off the runway.

When charts are gut-wrenching

Flight Data Recorder chart from the TransAsia flight that crashed in Taipei:

I’ll amend this later if I’m reading that chart incorrectly, but it seems to indicate that they initially had a master warning that engine two flamed out. Engine two auto-feathered, meaning it automatically turned the propeller blades parallel to the airflow to reduce drag. The crew mistakenly powered back engine one (PLA is Power Lever Angle) to 35%, just above Flight Idle, and then shut its fuel off (CLA – Condition Lever Angle set to FSO). As they lost altitude, they realized their mistake and tried to restart engine one – at first, failing to restore its fuel supply – but they were down to 500 feet AGL by the time they restored the fuel and it was too late to recover. It hit the bridge sixteen seconds later.

If true, this would be much the same as the British Midland flight 92 air crash in 1989.

The driver whose taxi was hit, seen exiting the vehicle in the second picture below, did spot the aircraft coming. The instant he applied his brakes is shown below. His quick reaction and that one-tenth of a second or so of slight slowdown almost certainly saved his life and that of his his passenger. Had they been just one foot farther forward, there would have been a different ending for them.

TransAsia Crash Snapshot

Click for a larger view

Video here.

TransAsia Taxi

ATR 72-600 Engine Controls

ATR 72-600 engine controls: In the middle, Power Levers (PLA on the chart) on the left and Control Levers (CLA) on the right


NTSB, USN, USCG: Please call these people

I think the time has arrived for some urgent unsolicited advice to Indonesian authorities. This is not just supremely ridiculous, it’s embarrassing and maddening. Future editions of dictionaries might do well to reference this in their definitions of farcical.

A fresh attempt to lift the sunken fuselage of the doomed AirAsia plane from the Java Sea today failed when a wire rope snapped after the wreckage reached the surface of the water, Indonesian officials said.

Efforts to lift the fuselage or the main section of the Airbus A320-200, expected to contain remaining bodies of victims of the December 28 crash that killed all 162 people on board, have failed so far.

“The fuselage appeared at the surface, but the rope broke and it fell down again,” said Supriyadi, director of operations and training for Indonesia’s search and rescue agency.

Earlier, rescuers tried to lift the section with balloons, a procedure they also used to hoist the tail of the ill-fated AirAsia Flight QZ8501, en route from Indonesia’s Surabaya city to Singapore.

Yesterday, efforts failed again when sharp parts of the debris sliced through a strap connecting the fuselage to a giant balloon and the wreckage sank to the seabed once again.

Several bodies fell from the fuselage when the piece of wreckage sank yesterday.

It’s not even the entire fuselage, but a 43-foot section. The phrase ‘reckless and bumbling incompetence’ keeps coming to mind.

A rusty showboat

I’m confident that I’d be drummed out of the Indonesian military in a New York minute, because in both of these cases, I would probably be the lowly corporal shouting from the back of the press room, “Hey, chuckleheads! Yes, you! Stop taking the goddamned recorder out of the goddamned water! Jiminy Cricket on a velocipede!”




When a DFDR or CVR is immersed in water after an accident, it must be kept stored in water after recovery, and not pulled out and posed with every time a photographer is in the vicinity. Why? Because once immersed in water – especially salt water – the internal components are highly susceptible to corrosion, which begins the instant the recorder is taken out of the water. That’s why the NTSB’s FDR and CVR recorder recovery manuals both state:

4.5. If the CVR is recovered in water, it shall immediately be packed in water (fresh, if possible) and not be allowed to dry out.

This is not the first time I’ve seen this sort of grandstanding. It’s good that they finally found the two recorders in about a hundred feet of water, but novice air crash investigators need to stop boasting and playing about like this. This is real life, not some Dingleface update upstaging your friends’ dull lives. Treat it as such. If you don’t know the rules, find out about them. Hey, look, someone’s linked them for you a graf or two upstream.


“We’re running low on funds. Any ideas?”

TIGHAR fundraising

“How about we use that highly dubious twenty-three-year-old item as the basis for our Fly to South Sea Isles 2015 campaign? I’ll wager almost nobody will remember its first appearance.”

“I dunno…I mean, gosh, the rivet patterns don’t match at all.”

“Well, what about this: We release a photo with a caption that says they’re a perfect match and just superimpose the pattern we had hoped to find on the original in the background as if it were actually there. Attention spans are measured in milliseconds these days. Who has time to actually examine the photo?”

“I guess you’re right — I mean, who are they going to believe, us or their lying eyes? And since Discovery ‘news’ prints anything and everything we stick in our press releases and then every other news outlet on the planet snaps it up within forty-eight hours, with each succeeding slightly inflated rewording of our release making the evidence seem more irrefutable, we don’t even have to do any work, really.”



If wishes were horses then beggars would ride
If turnips were swords I’d have one by my side
If ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ were pots and pans
There’d be no need for tinker’s hands

Not quite lost art

I was poking around the web looking at flight jacket artwork last night and was somewhat startled when I bumped into a photo of one of my paintings that I had nearly – okay, maybe fully – forgotten was used for the frontispiece of Hell Bent for Leather by Nelson and Parsons many years ago. I of course remember that the cover of the book featured one of my paintings, but the other paintings of mine that are inside the book tend to fade into the background of my mind.

The frontispiece painting is on a large faux leather portfolio case, with the tableau 27″w x12″h on the bottom half of the case. I realised today that I never did get a good photo of the painting in digital form — the photo I took for the authors was strictly analogue, the negative long gone or at the least buried amongst thousands of others — so I dug the case out from behind a bookcase, dusted it off, and rectified that situation this morning (you can click these for a larger size):


The pin-up is based on this Alberto Vargas painting, which was the gatefold artwork in the August 1943 issue of Esquire magazine:

Vargas August 1943

Here’s a closer look at my variation:


The pilot and copilot are the WWII cartoon characters Hubert and Sad Sack, respectively. Sad Sack appeared in the U.S. Army Yank weekly magazine and the Hubert panels were in the Army’s Stars and Stripes newspaper, some samples below:



P1010494 P1010492w

scrollLast night, I also ran into this high-quality copy of a photograph that I had seen only in much smaller form years ago in Vintage Aircraft Nose Art:

Rosie's Sweat Box

The name is a reference to Rosie the Riveter, of course. Many jacket artists in WWII just couldn’t capture faces well, but this artist certainly could. I love the care that went into this painting – again, you can click to see the detail – and note that it’s from the 401st Bomb Group based in Deenethorpe, Northamptonshire, the group that had the finest jacket paintings in WWII. However, the story behind the aircraft is a sad one indeed. The entire crew of the B-17 Rosie’s Sweat Box died in a takeoff accident at Deenethorpe exactly 70 years ago this past Wednesday.

To interject a bit more reality:


Riveting crew work on a B-17 at Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, 1942. Douglas and Vega joined Boeing in building B-17s during the war.

I won’t go if the dress code says “leisure suit”


I think I would have already had The Pan Am Experience by now if I lived anywhere near L.A.:

Your Pan Am experience starts on the main deck with a cocktail and beverage service in the First Class cabin. Each stewardess that greets you will be adorned in her original 1970’s Pan Am uniform. Our Pan Am crew will offer various video & audio selections while you sit back in your Pan Am Sleeperette seat and sip a cocktail.

Soon after, you’ll climb the winding staircase where the crew will set your table for a truly memorable dining event. In classic Pan Am style, you’ll be offered your favorite cocktail and served a delightful gourmet meal. Everything from the china to the glassware is authentic with careful attention to the exquisite service delivery of the era and menu offerings of Pan Am.

After dinner, you will have an opportunity to view the vast collection of airline memorabilia and view other film production sets.

“Pan Am makes the going great” was Pan Am’s slogan in the early 1970s. I still remember the excitement of my first commercial flight, on one of Pan Am’s first two 747s when I was ten eleven years old, so yes, please.

My first flight of any kind was less than a year before that, and was in a canary yellow – 3M’s Post-it® colour trademark be damned – Piper Cub that I had helped repaint, flown by its owner, a veteran TWA Flight Engineer. The door’s paint was still drying, so we flew in the vicinity of the now long-gone Tewksbury, Mass. Airport (Tew-Mac) for half an hour without it. Scared? Nah, I was too young to be scared. Plus, I was flying, dammit!


Pan American World Airways went out of business in 1991, but its name lives on, and still in the world of transport, in the form of Pan Am Railways, which bought the rights to the Pan Am name in 1998. I took this photo of one of their engines idling just a few blocks from my house two winters ago:


On a peripherally related note, I just received from the UK this spiffy print of a Geoff Nutkins painting of the B-17 Mon Tete Rouge II of the 452nd Bomb Group that was based at Deopham Green, Norfolk in WWII. It’s one of a limited edition of 500 prints produced in 1980.


He painted this several years before I used the same source photo of the aircraft when I painted my Boeing Belle flight jacket painting. I thought it was the perfect angle of a Flying Fortress for the back of a jacket, and didn’t find out about his painting until a few weeks ago, when I looked up “Mon Tete Rouge II” as I wrote that “Boeing Belles” post. After I saw his eBay listing for the print, it took just a few hours before I decided to order it.


The photograph that we both used was black & white, and we each figured the lettering on the nose must have been red given the name (translation: “My Redhead II”), but I found out during that recent search that the lettering was actually blue on ship 42-97069. At the time I painted the jacket, my research indicated that the wingtip colouring on 452BG aircraft was yellow, so I believe that’s correct in my version.


I’m not sure where I’ll put the print yet, but it may replace the B-17 print I have in my office at the moment, or I may rearrange this wall to accommodate both:


Here’s another flight jacket I painted, this one featuring a young Ginger Rogers, who wore this outfit in a publicity still for one of her first starring roles, that of radio star Glory Eden in “Professional Sweetheart.” My research indicated she had strawberry blonde hair at the time, and Daffy Duck is based on a 1942 Warner Brothers animator model sheet from 1942, when he was still a bit pudgy. The lingerie set was probably black, but that wouldn’t have shown up well on dark brown, so I took some artistic license. The boxes she’s leaning against are an accurate depiction of cases of linked .50 caliber bullets used by the machine guns aboard Army Air Force bombers in WWII. This jacket and “Boeing Belle” are on display on stairway landings in my house.

Boeing Belles

The latest addition to my office desktop Boeing gallery arrived in the mail today from Hong Kong. Now I have my three favourites, the B-17, B-747, and B-314, in the same 1:200 scale. You can click on any of these to see a larger size.

The detail is pretty good on the new model:

Especially given its size:

This Boeing Belle I painted years ago on one of my flight jackets – a little more eye-catching, I think, what with Rita Hayworth and all. The painting is about 16″x16″ on the back of the jacket and the lettering is done in Boeing’s logo style of the 1940s.

I took that photo of the painting in March so I could have Rita and the Mon Tête Rouge II on the back of my new phone, too, courtesy of Skinit.

Memphis Belle flies again

After writing about B-17s and the 1990 “Memphis Belle” film the other day, I looked at this video once more, remembering that my takeoff from the National Warplane Museum grass strip featured the same wide leftward swing of the B-17’s tail into the wind that’s in the sequence starting at 2:28 – rather exciting when you’re inside the aircraft:

I lamented that the DVD I have, from the following year, is in that old “widescreen, but not – ha ha!” format, where there’s black stripes not only top and bottom but left and right, just as you see when you play the above, so the actual resolution of the video is horribly limited, to put it mildly – maybe one-quarter of full HD quality. It doesn’t look very good on my 42″ set, where it’s reminiscent of those first postage-stamp videos Windows 3.1 could play. But then I noticed in the YouTube recommended video list Memphis Belle – Take Off – Available May 6, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the film was released on Blu-ray just a few months ago. This weekend, I’ll be able to watch it properly for the first time since I saw it in the cinema.

Aviation history, connected

Boeing 747 Rollout 1969-09-30

RA001 on 30 September 1968

I was reading this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the long-overdue restoration of the prototype Boeing 747, shown above on its rollout day – rolling, yes, but without working engines yet – and got to wondering if the Museum of Flight still had “Bomber” Bob Richardson’s B-17F as well.

I found that they do, which pleased me because I once flew in that B-17 in the days leading up to the 1988 Wings of Eagles Airshow at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York. I was a volunteer and arrived a couple days early, staying in the SUNY Geneseo campus dorms overlooking the NWM field. I got to talking with the museum president, Austin Wadsworth, a couple days before the airshow was to start, and he invited me to join the pre-airshow press flights the following morning. Those flights were to be in two B-17s. I remember my dropped-jaw excitement and exactly what he said as I left: “Get here early.” I needed no extra alarm.

The next morning, I arrived at 6:30am and then proceeded to have the time of my life, flying off the grass airfield in the museum’s B-17G, Fuddy Duddy, up to Buffalo, then swapping between Fuddy Duddy and Bomber Bob’s Kathleen, at that time the only F-model B-17 still flying, as they took groups of reporters up for separate promo flights over Niagara Falls. By the time we returned to Geneseo six or so hours later, I had a grin on my face that lasted for weeks – one that returns as I type this.

When we flew back to Geneseo in the afternoon, I took this photograph from the bombardier’s position in the nose of Kathleen shortly after takeoff as we banked away from Lake Erie:

Departing Buffalo, at about 800 feet

That’s an old scan of a physical photo – no digital cameras back then. I recently found and scanned at a much higher resolution another departure photo I took and it’s here.

Richardson had stopped in Geneseo to be at the airshow with Kathleen on his way back to Seattle from the UK after participating in the shooting of David Puttnam’s “Memphis Belle” film (which was way, way over the top but still entertaining). I remember that he died the year after I flew on his aircraft. I didn’t know him well, but from all accounts he was quite a guy. I’m still grateful that he welcomed me on his aircraft that day with only an hour or so’s notice from Wadsworth.

The airshow that followed was, in a word, spectacular, with a total of six B-17s present along with nearly a hundred other mostly WWII-era aircraft. I think it was the largest gathering of B-17s since the production of the “Twelve O’Clock High” film in 1949, and I don’t believe that number has been seen together since, either. Just five B-17s participated in the “Memphis Belle” filming.

I took this shot early on Saturday morning, opening day of the airshow, before too many people spoiled the opportunity. Fuddy Duddy is at the far end, and Kathleen is the only olive drab aircraft:


Six B-17s at the 1988 Wings of Eagles Airshow, Geneseo, New York

The following year, I returned with an 8×10 of my six tails shot and presented it to Wadsworth along with my thanks for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “Ah…proof it really happened,” he said with a smile.

That next year, the airshow featured five B-17s, a Consolidated B-24, and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Avro Lancaster:

I read another pleasant bit of news just now when I searched to verify I was recalling his name correctly: The National Warplane Museum name has returned to Geneseo, with Austin Wadsworth still in the left seat. I figure if anyone could pull off another large flock of B-17s one day, that’s the man right there.

Here’s Bomber Bob Richardson’s B-17F today in the Museum of Flight:

TMOF Boeing B-17F

“Now pay attention, fellas. Step 7 is important.”

"Does this bug you? I'm not touching you."

7. Never annoy the fuze in this manner.

Not really. The actual instruction is “7. Hold arming vane by hub, press it into position.” This illustration is from the WWII US Army Air Force Bombardier’s Information File Armament section, said manual in PDF form at the link.

On the same page, though I think oddly not highlighted in any way, is this sensible advice: “Don’t bump detonator against side of cavity.” I’d’ve probably put it this way:

WARNING: Do not – repeat, do not – bump detonator against anything, you fool!