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Archive for the ‘Aerospace’ Category

Patriot’s Point

This is my last post on airplanes and military technology, I promise!  It was a rainy August day and we were supposed to be going to the beach with our niece, but due to the rain we took her to Patriot’s Point in Mt. Pleasant, which sits at the mouth of Charleston Harbor.

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USS Clamgore (SS343) – a diesel powered submarine

I was approached by a Navy recruiter about joining the submarine fleet as an engineering officer just before graduating from the university.  When he told me I would have to relocate to South Carolina for a few years, that, coupled with the small living quarters in a submarine, I decided against pursing the option any further.

Well well well, now here I am stuck in South Carolina.  Sweet irony, no?  But after touring this submarine, I still think I made the right choice.  The living quarters, if they can be called that at all, are something to see.  There was less than 30 inches of space between each bunk in the sleeping quarters!

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The submarine cook used this small kitchen with just enough space to turn around

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From the periscope you can just make out the Arthur Ravenel Cooper River Bridge – taking pictures of television screens usually doesn’t help much either.

The USS Washington, a World War II era aircraft carrier, is the main exhibit at Patriot’s Point.  On the flight deck, numerous retired aircraft are available for viewing.  On the Hanger deck there are several museums with old equipment from the ship, the Mercury space program, and World War II aircraft.  Finally, you can tour the living area of the ship: machine shops, living quarters, mess hall, et cetera.  It really was like a floating, small city inside of the carrier.

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From this plane to the front of the carrier was probably 30 meters or less, it is hard to believe that jets can really take off from such small carriers

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Reconnaissance aircraft

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The F-18 – made famous by the Air Force’s Blue Angels which fly the same aircraft in air shows

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The USS Washington was deployed in the Pacific arena and it looks like they liked to keep statistics.  Luckily I didn’t have to try to explain this to my niece.

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The key to the above statistics board

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Even though it is just a dummy, when you stand in front of this gun you still have to pause for a moment

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It amazes me that the wings could fold like this and still be deployed in dog fights while performing amazing acrobatic feats

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My favorite aircraft stares back at me – “C’mon man, when are you going to take me for a spin?”

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Spaceman or ocean diver – you decide

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The officer’s eating quarters on one of the decks – it was so much nicer than general mess hall, and it makes you realize that there were two different worlds on such ships just like as in real live – the working class and the upper class

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An officer’s living quarters – the desk folds up into the wall to create a little area of space for putting on one’s uniform.  The cot in the back looks a lot more comfortable than the racks where the enlisted men slept.

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Inside an Apollo Mercury space capsule – there wasn’t any room to move at all, just enough space to flip switches and press buttons

Well now, back to business as usual on this blog for awhile.  I sure am enjoying this three day weekend!

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A&S Museum: Lost in Space

My final entry on the Air and Space museum is on the space wing of the museum. Besides the space shuttle, this wing also houses a great deal of exhibits: rocketry (ballistic and transport), space capsules, satellites, and much more.

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The space shuttle, I never realized how small the wingspan is on this vehicle.  It is also very square, except for the nose of the craft and the rocket thrusters in the rear.  It really is like a flying shoebox.

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Impressive engineering – I cannot imagine designing all of the piping that turns here and there and all over the place.  I assume someone (or some machine) had to calculate all of the thermodynamic parameters for this…

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A Mercury capsule

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The Regulus 1 cruise missile

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A Sperry Univac – it look like something straight out of Our Man Flint

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What ever you do, don’t press the red buttons!

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This is a circuit used in a satellite – the picture quality is awful, but this was entirely hand-soldered.  Very few people outside of SE Asia would be capable of such precision and quality anymore – we’re too dependent on automated soldering processes now

I walked away from this exhibit a little disheartened, actually.  When I was going through engineering school, I had envisioned myself working on applied technology projects for aerospace or new semiconductor technology in California of even Taiwan.  I didn’t expect to be writing software for telecoms and capital markets.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy to just be employed.  I suppose my advice to young people in technology fields is the following: unless you see yourself in a business role (marketing, sales), get your Ph.D. no matter how much work it really is.  The Ph.D. is what opens your door to real cutting-edge and interesting projects.  That Ph.D. will open more doors than it will ever close.

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A&S Museum: SR-71

The most popular exhibit at the Air and Space museum is the SR-71 Blackbird.  Outside of the opposite sex or the occasional automobile, there are not many opportunities to describe something as sexy–the SR-71 is an exception in my opinion.  These pictures don’t really do the aircraft justice I’m afraid.  Standing in the rear of the aircraft and seeing just how thin it is in areas…this aircraft really is an amazing feat of engineering.  This aircraft’s payload, however, was very serious business.  I suspect the SR-71 will serve as a good reminder of the Cold War.

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From above the aircraft looks so flat, like the head of a viper in many ways – strike quick and strike silent (both this aircraft and the viper)

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The jet engines are enormous compared to most of the jet aircraft, no doubt required for flying at supersonic speeds

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Skunk Works!

Not completely related to stealth bombers, which I suspect will remain a vital part of military fleets for years to come, it is interesting to note that the age of the fighter plane seems to have come to and end.  With many nations facing broken economies and no need for vehicle-to-vehicle direct combat, the order books for the F22, F35, Eurofighter Typhoon and other next-generation fighters are drying up.  In greater demand are the remotely controlled drone aircraft controlled via satellite in remote locations hidden across the globe.  Just as the submarine has replaced the battleship and aircraft carrier in naval fleets, drones are replacing the need for jet aircraft in the air areana.  Fewer pilots will be put at risk in the future, a good thing of course, but remotely controlled drones bring new problems to the table.  Times are changing for sure.

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A&S Museum: After the propeller

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An F4 Phantom in the back, commonly used in tours over Vietnam, and a Russian Mig-?? aircraft.  My high school algebra teacher flew F4s over Northern Vietnam during the war.  I was a poor math student before I took his course, but I think the teacher’s lectures on applied algebra in flying the F4 made me more interested in the subject matter.  I’ve always been the type that needs to know not just how, but also why and what for.

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F-15 – it looks quite stubby when compared with other fighter aircraft

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I don’t remember what this one was…

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Huey helicopters will forever be an image of the Vietnam war

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Top Gun, anyone? The iconic F-14

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Air France Concorde – so long I could not fit it in the shot!  I would have love to have taken a ride on one of these, but unfortunately the laws of supply and demand nixed this aircraft

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A&S Museum: World War II

The World War II era collection is very impressive and is probably the second largest, the largest being commercial and race aircraft (that I did not bother to take photos of).  The collection consists of American, Japanese and German aircraft ranging from fighters to bombers.

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F4U Corsair- my favorite of the World War II era exhibits.  I particularly like how they have it hanging banked.  I wouldn’t mind taking one of these for a spin!

(Yes that is an SR-71 below…more on that later!)

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mechanical excellence from England – the engine of a Bristol Juniper VIIIF

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Seaplanes are the greatest invention — what better than being able to fly than to also be able to land on water

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P47 Thunderbolt

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P-47 from the side (more on the beast in back in a moment)

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Kawanishi N1K2-Ja Shiden Kai – known to the allies as “George”

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A two seater Japanese bomber

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Kushigo MXY7 Ohka Model 2 –  This was flown by the kamikaze pilots, think of it as a manned torpedo

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The Enola Gay – forever linked to Hiroshima.  No matter what your opinion is on the atom bomb dropping, one has to take pause when walking around and looking at this aircraft which changed history and mankind forever

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The other side of the Enola Gay – it is no wonder the B29 was named the Superfortress

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I’m sure all European arena pilots prayed they never had to use this book

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Country guides prepared by the War and Navy Dept. – they don’t call it that anymore

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It says “Sokufu #1877 … Showa year 16 …. Kubota ….” – This is a wind measurement device used in Japanese aircraft produced by the Kubota Corporation in Showa Year 16, or 1941.  I cannot make out the full name of the manufacturer

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Sorry cyclists, but pilots make the messenger back look good

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Stay tuned for more!

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A&S Museum: The Golden Age

This post begins a series based on a recent visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Udzar-Hazy Center right beside the Dulles-Washington DC Intl. Airport.  If you ever have a few hours to kill before a flight out of Dulles, jump a cab and check it out.  Admission is free (parking is $15.00 however) and it has something to offer for everyone.  I will definitely take Liam to see this museum when he is older.

The main Air and Space Museum is located in downton Washington DC very close to the Capitol building.  It is a fine museum in its own and has lots to enjoy.  I really enjoyed the Soviet space program exhibit that I saw back in 2004.  However, being in central Washington DC, it lacks space for a lot of aircraft, and that is where the Udzar-Hazy Center comes in–it is a giant hanger full of aircraft.  I spent three hours looking at the exhibits!

Shall we get started then?  I’ll start with what I call the Golden Age, that of the biplane and World War I.  Aviation was a brand new industry and what an exciting time it must have been!  It is definitely my favorite period in aviation history.

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If I ever come upon money, I will not put it in the stock market, start my own company or buy a yacht.  No.  I will get my pilot’s license, buy a biplane like this one, learn how to maintenance it myself, and spend my days flying around.  If the propeller dies and I go down, then so be it, that would be my destiny.  And what a way to go out too.

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The uniform of Edward Rickenbacker, the top American ace in World War I.  People often ask “if you could speak with three historical figures, who would they be?”  Eddie Rickenbacker would definitely be on my list.  I’d love to talk with him all about flying biplanes over Europe…

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Spad XVI

I cannot get over the wooden frames and propellers — it is no wonder the planes were so easily torn apart by machine gun fire, yet it is also the reason for the agility and acrobatics

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The other side of the Spad, just because I have to.

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The wheels look almost like toys to me, but with biplanes being as lightweight and nimble as they are, heavy duty landing gear is not required.

Unfortunately the World War I era section is rather limited so I didn’t get so many pictures.  There were other planes, but often the wingspan was so long that I could not fit it in the camera lens!  Stay tuned for more from the museum.  By the time I’m done, you’ll be sick of airplanes.

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