Category Archives: planes

My Brother’s Old Adage…


“Ya get drunk, ya do sh*t!”


It was 42 degrees and raining lightly around 3 a.m. on Monday when an inebriated off-duty employee for a government intelligence agency decided it was a good time to fly his friend’s drone…

In the process of what officials describe as nothing more than a drunken misadventure, the employee managed to highlight another vulnerability in the protective shield that the Secret Service erects around the White House complex.

We will assume he had the next day off.  Though my guess is he didn’t get everything done that he had planned.  And he probably had to answer a lot of questions with a headache.  It also reinforces my old First Sergeant’s adage.  “Nothing good happens to a drunk after midnight.”


Filed under Around the web, engineering, helicopters, Humor, obama, planes, Uncategorized

NTP Answered and some history and some odd stuff.

So, the NTP from yesterday was actually answered pretty quickly in the comments.


Tis indeed the wing from a Cessna O-2A/Model 337 Skymaster.

I’ll be honest, when I saw it, *I* was stumped until I saw the tailfin in another part of the maintenance area of the hangar.  Most of the area was blocked off, so I couldn’t get a good look at the fuselage, so I couldn’t tell if it was an actual O-2A, or the civilian Model 337. But all references to CALFIRES says they flew surplus O-2As, so I’ll go with that.

Back in 1961, Cessna introduced the Model 336 Skymaster light twin. It’s unusual push/pull engine arrangement had the advantage that if one engine failed, there would be no adverse yaw characteristics, something that is especially critical in light twins, particularly at takeoff.

The Model 337 introduced some changes, particularly adding retractable landing gear to the aircraft, and an air scoop to increase cooling for the rear engine and soon replaced the 336 on the production line.

The US Air Force, looking to replace its obsolescent O-1E Bird Dog FACs in Vietnam, and while waiting for the “definitive” OV-10 to arrive, bought about 500 of a slightly modified version designated the O-2A. The primary differences from the civilian model included windows in the right hand door to increase visibility, hard points on the wings for marking rockets, and extra radios for the FAC mission. 

Including the 336, the O-2A, and several other civil variants, almost 3000 Skymasters were built. They’re still a popular aircraft on the used market. Having said that, they’re notorious for poor performance with one engine out, having just enough power to get you to the scene of the accident.

As for the oddity, conversions of the 337 to various configurations is apparently quite popular. One popular conversion is providing a larger engine in either the front or rear, and removing the other engine for increased space.

The US Navy apparently still operates on modified O-2A as “the Pelican” in which the rear engine has been replaced with a more powerful motor, and the front engine replaced with a sensor pallet similar to that used on the MQ-1 Predator.

Cessna O-2A Pelican aircraft picture

Per NPS, the advantage of this arrangement is it can be flown in airspace that would be restricted to unmanned aircraft. It seems that it is generally used for range clearance at the US Marines Weapons and Tactics Instructors course at MCAS Yuma, and as a surrogate for unmanned aircraft in support of the course.


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Palm Springs Air Museum


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Filed under planes


We’re busy visiting the Palm Springs Air Museum today with family, so here’s the Su-34 strike bomber.

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A Not So Brief History of the Carrier Onboard Delivery, or COD

We mentioned a bit ago Brazil contracting to bring four C-1A Traders back into service, with an overhaul and update, to support their carrier both as a Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft and as a tanker.

And yesterday, we brought news that the Navy has apparently decided the future COD for its carrier strike groups would be a variant of the V-22 Osprey.

Let’s spend a bit of time on the COD.

First up, speaking of the C-1A, there are a couple in the hands of private owners who fly them on the Warbird circuit here in the US.

'Miss Belle' at an air show in 2014. (photo via Doug Goss)

Memory fails me in my advancing years. I can’t recall if the Grumman I saw at the Goshen airshow in 98 was a C-1A (maybe this one!) or a US-2A, which was a standard S-2A Tracker that had all its ASW equipment stripped out, and was used as a utility plane.

As mentioned, the first dedicated COD for the US Navy was a modification of the World War II TBM Avenger torpedo bomber. Stripped of armament, it could haul the mail and a handful of passengers.

Long after the TBM was superceded as a combat aircraft, the TBM-3R served to transport priority passengers and cargo, serving well into the mid 1950s.

As previously noted, the UF-1, later redesignated the C-1A Trader, became the backbone of COD services through the late 1950s, the early 1960s, and soldiered on until the early 1980s.

The Trader was the last piston powered aircraft flown from US carriers.

The Trader was first supplemented, and later replaced in service by the C-2A Greyhound. Much as the Trader was an adaptation of the S-2 Tracker, the Greyhound took the wings, engine and empennage of the E-2 Hawkeye, and used a new fuselage to quickly produce a COD variant.

The first batch of C-2s were built in the early 1960s. After years of hard work, the C-2A was replaced by… well, more C-2s. The Navy contracted with Grumman to build a second batch of Greyhounds in 1984. The original batch has been retired, but the second production batch has been refurbished and updated with new propellers, much as the E-2 fleet, and continues in service.

But wait! There’s more!

While those are the primary aircraft used in the Carrier Onboard Delivery role, there are a few also-rans, a one-off, and some ideas that never came to fruition.

The Douglas A-1 Skyraider is legendary for its service in Korea and Vietnam as an attack aircraft. But Douglas also built a combat capable version that could (and did) double as a utility aircraft. The AD-5 (later A-1E) widened the fuselage a bit, and extended the vertical stabilizer, and replaced the single seat bubble canopy with a “greenhouse” that had a side by side cockpit for two, and seating for about 8-10 in the back.

Courtesy Detail and Scale.

The “Five” also served as the basis for quite a few night attack and electronic warfare variants of the Skyraider, including a predecessor to the E-1B Tracer and E-2 Hawkeye.  The Navy tended to use their –5 models as station hacks and utility aircraft, but the Air Force eventually used most of the vanilla A-1Es in Vietnam (or turned them over to the South Vietnamese Air Force) and used them to great effect as attack aircraft and in the Sandy role to support Combat Search and Rescue. Indeed, MAJ Bernie Fisher was flying an A-1E when he earned the Medal of Honor.

Much as the S-2 Tracker inspired a COD variant, the S-3 Viking did as well, but to  a much lesser extent. One S-3A was stripped of armament and sensors and had its cabin fitted for up to six passengers or two tons of cargo. Primarily used to support carrier operations in the Indian Ocean, its great range and (relative) speed made it useful for ferrying people and critical cargo from Diego Garcia to the carriers on Gonzo Station.

File:US-3A DN-SC-87-06468.JPEG

Recently Lockheed proposed pulling S-3s from mothballs and fitting them with a new fuselage to serve as CODs and tankers, but the extensive design and fabrication work required meant that idea was pretty much a non-starter when new build C-2s or V-22s were on the table.

Lockheed Wants To Bring The S-3 Viking Back From The Dead

While no COD variant of the venerable A-3 Skywarrior was built, it wasn’t uncommon for it to haul one or two VIPs when transiting from place to place. And for a time, the CNO used a VIP version as his personal transport, though I’m unaware of any CNO using it aboard a carrier.

Remember we mentioned the Navy had Grumman build a new batch of C-2s in the mid-80s? When word came out that the Navy was looking to replace its 1960s era Greyhounds, a couple of off the wall proposals for COD replacements were made.

Both McDonnell Douglas and Fokker proposed carrier capable variants of airliners for the job!

McD’s DC-9 proposal.

F28 COD 1

Fokker also realized a tanker would be popular.


Neither proposal went much beyond some general sketches and marketing pics. It wasn’t so much that the Navy didn’t think a viable carrier variant could be made, but that operating such large aircraft from the tight confines of a carrier deck posed some real issues. If the plane broke down while aboard, it would really screw up the carrier’s ability to launch and recover other aircraft.

Speaking 0f big aircraft onboard, we can’t discuss COD without mentioning the largest trash-hauler to land aboard a carrier.

Yes, Jimmy Flatley III successfully landed and took off a C-130 Hercules from the USS Forrestal clear back in 1963. By the way, no tailhook, and no catapult!

But just because you could, doesn’t mean you should.

While we’re at it, a couple other oddballs pretending to be CODs, both of which have been featured here before.

The XC-124.

And the QSRA,

We might not have chosen the V-22 to replace the C-2, but the fact is, someone has to provide priority cargo and personnel transport to the carrier group, and the V-22 is in production and in service. Better a bird in the hand than a power point program in the bush.


Filed under navy, planes

MH-47G First Flight

Somehow we missed this from a couple months ago.

The MH-47G is the Special Operations version of the current production CH-47F Chinook. Interestingly, these are the very first new-build Chinooks ever for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

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AirAsia QZ 8501 and BOAC 911

We’re not going to speculate on the cause of the recent crash of AirAsia Flight QZ 8501. It’s simply too early in the investigation to make any informed judgment.

On the other hand, we will admit that among possible causes, the inclement weather in the area might well have been either a causal or contributing factor.

Oddly, one of the most horrific weather related air disasters I can think of actually took place during what was an essentially beautiful day.

BOAC Flight 911 was a Boeing 707 departing Tokyo bound for Hong Kong. Shortly before take-off, the crew had requested a visual departure that allowed them to fly in the vicinity of Mt. Fuji before they would enter the controlled en route airways. As the doomed plane taxied out to its departure runway, the crew and passengers actually passed the wreckage of a Canadian Pacific DC-8 that had crashed on landing the night before, killing 64 passengers and crew, with only 8 surviving.

As BOAC 911 neared Mt. Fuji shortly after takeoff, the vertical stabilizer sheared off and  struck the port horizontal stabilizer. The loss of the vertical and port horizontal stabilizer induced a sudden, strong yaw movement in the aircraft, which lead to all four engine pylons failing and shearing off. In the resulting flat spin, eventually one wingtip and the forward fuselage failed and separated from the aircraft.

The aircraft plummeted to the ground. All 124 souls aboard were lost.

What could have caused the sudden failure? Post crash analysis determined that the structure had been in good repair* and that an outside force had acted upon it.

When fast moving air hits a mountain like Mt. Fuji, some will flow around the sides of the mountain. But some will move directly over the mountain, and down the far side. Indeed, a “rebound” wave will form further downwind. The determination of the investigation was that BOAC 911 had encountered this mountain wave, or lee wave and the sudden gust had exceeded the structural strength of the aircraft.

Though one wasn’t present on the day of the incident, one tell tale sign of a strong mountain wave is the lenticular cloud.  The air flowing over the mountain accelerates, causing lower pressure, and the resulting lower pressure often results in cloud formation. Though lenticular clouds themselves are relatively stationary, they’re indicative of high wind speed.

In the wake, no pun intended, of this accident, procedures were changed to minimize the exposure of transport aircraft to possible mountain wave risk.

Still, before the rudder actuator fault was located in early model 737s, it was at one time suspected in the crash of United Flight 585, and is still suspected in the in flight loss of an engine and pylon of an Evergreen International cargo 747 in Alaska in 1993.

*Mostly. There were some stress cracks found in the vertical stabilizer structure, but not sufficient to cause the failure. The rest of the 707 fleet was inspected, and similar cracks were repaired.


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