Tag Archives: planes

First Flight of the Intruder

Spill was kind enough to remind me that today marks the anniversary of the first flight of the Grumman A2F-1 Intruder, more popularly known by its post-1962 designation, the A-6.

Given that our dad was flying in an A-6A the very day we were born, we’ve always had a strong affinity for the Intruder.

And as someone not overly blessed in the looks department, we’ve also liked that the Intruder may have been ugly, but it got the job done.

To borrow a pic from Tailspin Tommy

And of course, there’s plenty of videos of the old gal.

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The Return of the Flying Dorito? Or “What the heck was that over Texas?

Planespotters in Texas and now Kansas have recently been seeing some very unusual looking aircraft overhead. The shape of these high flying mystery jets is similar too, but NOT the same as, the B-2 Spirit bomber, better known as the Stealth Bomber.

These sightings have, of course, cranked up the rumors and theories.

Today we have new pics that are the clearest yet.

A mysterious flying object was snapped flying over Wichita, Kansas by Jeff Templin. It resembles a similar unidentified aircraft streaking across the skies of Texas last month

The triangular shape certainly calls to mind one of the biggest procurement failures of the latter half of the 20th Century, the Navy’s failed A-12 Avenger II program.

The A-12, planned successor to the fabled A-6 Intruder attack aircraft, was eventually cancelled before the first was ever built due to staggering cost overruns and the massive weight gain of the design.


But you can see from the picture above, the triangular shape of the mystery jet is certainly very, very similar to the A-12.

Who knows if the jet over Texas is manned or a drone, or what?

What say you?


Filed under Air Force, navy, planes

Today I Learned…

Or, as they say on Twitter, “TIL.”

The Grumman EA-6B Prowler is a four place electronic warfare plane that specializes in jamming enemy radars and communications.

Like virtually all tactical jets, the crew rides on ejection seats.


In the video above, you’ll see all four seats fire at intervals of about half a second. If you look carefully, you see that they fire the back seats first, then the front seats. Additionally, the seats fire at a very slight angle outboard from the aircraft to generate separation between the seats. To cause the seats to angle outboard, the rocket motor is very slightly off centerline of the seat. Having the thrust line off centerline causes the angle of flight.

Here’s a picture of a test of the S-3B Viking, with a similar 4 seat ejection.


What I learned today was that the firing handles of the various seats in the Prowler were color coded so the seat maintainers could ensure the proper seat was installed in the proper location in the cockpit.

  The GRUEA-7 Ejection Seats are simply superb—all I did was attach brass handles.  On the Prowler, the firing mechanisms on top of the ejection seats are color coded to help the aviators ensure that the correct seat has been installed.  The seats were painted the appropriate colors, (white for the left rear seat; orange for the right rear seat; purple for the right front seat; brown for the left front seat) and installed.

Sadly, in the video above, the pitching motion of the Prowler as it went off the bow caused the pilot’s seat to collide with another seat, killing the pilot. The three Electronic Countermeasures Officers (ECMOs) were recovered.


Filed under navy, planes

Youthly Puresome

Growing up in a NavAir family, one of the pleasures every quarter was the arrival of The Hook, the magazine of the Tailhook Association. A collection of sea stories, historical monographs, and updates on people, places and goings on in the world of carrier aviation, it had fantastic pictures and interesting news.

And for about 20 years, it also featured the Further Adventures of Youthly Puresome, the humorous tales of derring do of Jack Woodall, as a young carrier pilot. Sadly, in a reshuffle of the Tailhook site, the archives were lost. But Jack finally has a website, and the archives of his fantastic sea stories is available for all.

They’re in .pdf format, but don’t let that stop you from some great writing.


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A brief note on Navy airplane designations

Jason’s lovely pics of an FG-1 reminded me I’ve long, long meant to post on the arcane methodology of Navy aircraft designations prior to 1962.

Very briefly, the alphanumeric system was based on the role of the aircraft and it’s manufacturer, and how many previous types that manufacturer had produced, followed by numbers for variants on a basic type, and often additional letters for minor changes or specific mission equipment.

In this case, the FG-1 (probably an FG-1D) the “F” is for Fighter. “G” is for Goodyear. The “-1” is for the first variant produced.

Smart observers recognize that the plane is a Corsair. Well, yes it is. The basic Corsair was built by Vought, and designated the F4U. “F” again for Fighter, “U” for Vought (the manufacturer’s designator letter didn’t always make a lot of sense). The “4” tells us this was the fourth fighter type for the Navy designed by Vought.

Because of the incredible increase in demand for airplanes during the war, and limited capacity of the primary builders, many types were ordered to be built by other firms, many of which hadn’t built whole airplanes before. Hence, Goodyear was tapped to build Corsairs. As noted, while they were virtually indistinguishable from a Corsair off the Vought lines, they received their own designation. Brewster Aircraft also received contracts to build Corsairs (under the designation F3A), though poor quality control meant none of these actually entered combat.

One of the most famous Navy planes of World War II was the Douglas Dauntless SBD. In this case, “S” meant Scout, “B” for bomber, and “D” for Douglas.  It was replaced by the SB2C Helldiver. Scout Bomber, Curtiss, second Scout Bomber built for the Navy by Curtiss (the SBC was also named Helldiver).

In 1961, my dad was flying the R4D-8. In 1962, he’d climb into the same plane, but now it was a C-117D.

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LASD Super Puma

So I flipped on KCAL 9’s news to see the familiar green/gold paint job of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter conducting a SAR mission near Pasadena. But instead of the familiar surplus SH-3H Sea King, I was surprised to see an AS332 Super Puma.


As it turns out, LASD’s Aero Division just bought three used Super Pumas to replace the SH-3H fleet.

On Wednesday, October 3, 2012 in Long Beach the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Aero Bureau held a press conference to unveil the new Super Puma Helicopters.
The County of Los Angeles recently approved the acquisition of three previously owned Eurocopter AS 332L1 Super Puma helicopters by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) Aero Bureau. These ships will replace the aging former United States Navy Sikorsky SH-3H Sea Kings currently operated by Sheriff’s Aero Bureau.
With parts and support for the three H-3’s becoming more expensive and difficult to obtain, the decision was made to replace them. The three AS 332L1’s that LASD is obtaining will continue the long tradition of the Department’s Air Rescue-5 program.

Anybody know who the original operator was?

By the way, the US Navy has a couple Pumas under contract to conduct Vertical Replenishment from some of its logistics ships.

And the hikers the LASD picked up today? Looks like they’re safe and sound.


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FJ-2 Fury

Around 1944, the Navy started to get interesting in a jet powered, carrier capable fighter. The advent of jets in the European theater, coupled with the diminishing  returns of increased horsepower of piston engines meant sooner or later then Navy would have to operate jet powered fighters simply to keep up.

North American Aviation (NAA), with little experience working on Navy products, put forward a proposal for what was essentially a jet powered P-51 Mustang. The Wings and empennage were very similar to its piston engined predecessor.

Designated the FJ-1 (Fighter, first type built by NAA, first model) and name Fury, it first flew in September of 1946. It was not a resounding success, and only 31 were built.

File:FJ-1 in flight.jpg

FJ-1 Fury

But while the FJ-1 wasn’t terribly successful as a carrier borne aircraft, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with it structurally, and most of the basic design concept was quite sound.

So when the Air Force started to look for replacements for its first generation F-80 and F-84 jets, NAA took their experience with the FJ, and melded it with German World War II research in swept wings to provide higher speeds. The result was the legendary F-86 Sabre. Beyond the swept wing, the F-86 was pretty much an entirely new design, though the basic layout was similar, and the FJ experience also provided a great deal of experience in designing a jet fighter.

File:North American F86-01.JPG

F-86 Sabre.

The success of the F-86 prompted the Navy to take another stab at an NAA product, this time a virtual clone of the F-86 modified for carrier operations.

In spite of being a completely new design, this second attempt was still designated in the FJ series, being the FJ-2 Fury (being a completely new design, it more properly should have been designated the F2J-1).

This new Fury first flew 62 years ago today, on December 27, 1951. Low speed handling around the carrier was still less than wholly satisfactory. Additionally, production of the FJ-2 competed with the Air Force’s need for F-86s. Eventually, 200 FJ-2s would be built, with most serving with Marine Corps land based squadrons.

File:FJ-2 Fury VMF-312 c1955.jpg

FJ-2 Fury. It’s similarity to the Air Force F-86 is obvious in this pose.

File:FJ-1 FJ-2 NAN5-52.jpg

FJ-1 (Left), FJ-2 (Right)

The re-engined FJ-3 was externally very similar, but replaced the FJ-2’s J47 engine with the more powerful J65.  While the FJ-3 was still not a particularly good carrier aircraft, it was a significant improvement over the FJ-2, and eventually over 500 would be built, operated by both Navy and Marine fighter squadrons.

FJ-3s would eventually be equipped with the AIM-9/GAR-8 Sidewinder missile, and a fixed air-to-air refueling probe, in both cases, among the first Navy aircraft to be so equipped.


FJ-3 Fury equipped with Sidewinder missiles.

Even as the FJ-2/3 series was in testing, the Navy sought a further improved variant. With a completely redesigned wing, and a new internal arrangement that shared only the basic configuration, this final Navy version, the FJ-4 Fury, was really a new plane, and more properly should have been designated the F3J. Even so, the FJ-4 Fury clearly shared some of the DNA of its predecessors.

File:FJ-4B six rocket pods NAN9-57.jpg

FJ-4 armed with 2.75” rocket pods. Note the refueling probe on the port wing.

The FJ-4B would introduce a new, critical capability to Navy carriers. Mated with the new, second generation of “small” tactical nuclear weapons, the FJ-4B introduced an ability for the Navy to perform nuclear strikes that didn’t require huge bombers such as the AJ Savage or the A3D Skywarrior.

The FJ-3 and FJ-4 would serve into the 1960s, though mostly replaced in frontline service by F-8 Crusaders and A-4 Skyhawks. After the 1962 Tri-Service designation system was adopted, the FJ series became the F-1.

The introduction of the FJ-2 with its swept wing and near transonic speeds meant Naval Aviators would have to learn some new concepts about flying, particularly about critical Mach numbers. And so the Navy helpfully produced a video for the fledgling Fury flyer.

Incidentally, given the shennanigans with the FJ designation, you should know there was yet another FJ fighter. Back in 1944, there was interest in a “navalized” carrier capable version of the P-51.  A Mustang was modified and carrier trials were conducted but it was not adopted for production or use. The modified Mustang was designated the FJ-1 Seahorse, and so the FJ-1 Fury really should have been the F2J.  The Seahorse is a story for another day.


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Time for Santa to start his preflight.

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Flight Deck Friday from SteelJawScribe

SteelJawScribe shares a little dope on what’s gonna be on the scope next week.


SJS really needs to get back to doing a regular FdF.

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Spectre Gunships Face Retirement

Relax. It’s the older “H” models. The U-Boats will still be doing pylon turns over the troops.

We let troops retire after 20 years. I think after well over 40 years, we can let a bird retire.

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The Wright Brothers

We tend recall that Orville and Wilbur were  a couple of bicycle mechanics. What we don’t often recall is that they not only built the first airplane, they also did so in a methodical, scientific manner, establishing some of the fundamentals of sound aerodynamic engineering, such as the use of wind tunnels, that endure to this day.

And it was on this day 110 years ago that the first successful flight of their odd little machine opened the door to heavier than air flight.


File:First flight2.jpg

Thanks to Spill for reminding me.

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The Changing of the Guard- Maritime Patrol from P-3 to P-8

For over half a century, the P-3 Orion, an Anti-Submarine patrol plane developed from the Lockheed Electra airliner, has supported the Navy’s Maritime Patrol mission. Intended as a sub hunter, the Orion also performed surveillance of surface shipping in both open water and in the littorals, most famously in the Cuban Missile Crisis but also along the coasts of Vietnam. In the past decade, the Orion fleet has provided yeoman service providing overland Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

But the Orion fleet is aging and worn out. And so the time has come for its replacement to arrive. And so the Boeing 737 has been adapted as the P-8A Poseidon.  In development the last few years, the first few Maritime Patrol squadrons have transitioned from the P-3 to the P-8. And as of yesterday, VP-16 achieved Initial Operational Capability, and has forward deployed two Poseidons to Japan.  

131129-N-ZZ999-017 JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Nov. 29, 2013) -Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Bill Pennington Jr. takes off on a P-8A Poseidon No. 429 aircraft from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Nov. 29.

Still, it will take several years for the Orion community to transition. The last P-3s are currently scheduled to retire in 2019.

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Will the A-10 Be Shot Down?

The Air Force is looking to trim older platforms (that’s airplanes to you and me) from its inventory to free up money to operate and maintain the rest of its fleet. We wrote briefly a couple days ago that the KC-10 was among the platforms being considered. Heck, the Air Force is even looking at retiring the F-15C fleet. But no proposal will generate more howls of outrage among the public and especially among the ground pounders than the thought of retiring the A-10 Warthog fleet.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As an old Warthog pilot, Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III spoke in near mournful tones Wednesday of the likely mothballing of the venerable A-10 close air support aircraft and tank killer.

“Can we save the A-10?” was the question from the audience Wednesday at the Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference here.

Clarke, director of the Air National Guard, came at the question in roundabout fashion. He loved flying the A-10 Thunderbolt, better known as the “Warthog,” Clarke said. He noted that the plane was “near and dear to land warriors” for its GAU-8 Avenger, a 30mm rotary cannon that is the heaviest such weapon mounted on an aircraft.

But the Air Force was “looking at reducing single mission aircraft,” Clarke said, and under the sequestration process “we’re not getting any more money – that option is out.”

The Air Force “has to have a fifth generation force out there” of stealthy, fast and maneuverable aircraft, and the low and slow A-10 just didn’t fit in, Clarke said.

“We’re on board with moving towards Air Force 2023,” the concept for the future of the force which has no room for the A-10, Clarke said.

Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, also declared his affection for the A-10, which happens to be an aircraft he has 1,000 hours flying.

“I love that old ugly thing,” Welsh said.

However, the chief of staff explained the service has to take part in finding over a trillion dollars in cuts to the defense budget over the next ten years because of sequestration. In this budget environment, he said the Air Force will likely be unable to afford the Warthog.


I think this is pretty dumb. The Air Force just spend a ton of money on refurbishing most of the active Warthog fleet to extend their service lives and make them capable of employing modern smart weapons.

But I can also see why the Air Force thinks this is a viable option. And a large part of it is the existence of those smart weapons.  When the A-10 was conceived and bought almost 40 years ago, there simply weren’t a lot of smart weapons, and the few that existed were hideously expensive.  Most Close Air Support missions would rely on old fashioned dumb bombs and cluster munitions (and yes, of course, the gun).  To be at all accurate, you had to get down in the weeds, which suited the A-10 just fine. Other jets, such as the F-4? Not so much.

Fast forward to today, and virtually no CAS missions are flown that don’t employ a precision guided weapon, most commonly the JDAM GPS guided bomb. With JDAM and similar weapons, there’s no real need to get close. The pilot doesn’t have to see the target. He simply has to have the coordinates, plug it into the bomb, and he’s reasonably assured a direct hit. That’s something other jets like the F-16, the F-15E Strike Eagle, and soon the F-35 are more than capable of doing. And have been doing for some time now. Heck, the B-1B has been doing it over Afghanistan for years now, and is a popular weapons because of its huge payload and good endurance.

Further, we’ve had the luxury in the wars of the past decade of almost total air dominance, with virtually no enemy air defense capability. But the Air Force knows this will not always be the case. The proliferation of modern MANPADS short range air defense missiles will make future COIN battlefields hazardous to low flying aircraft.  Syrian rebels have had some success against Assad forces, downing both helicopters and jets.  So using a high altitude jet flying above MANPADS range with some standoff capability via JDAM or other weapons makes a lot of sense.  Conversely, a lot of the CAS capability, ISR capability, and long loiter time ground commanders ask for can be provided by assets like the MQ-9 Reaper. And if a Reaper is shot down, you don’t have to go rescue the pilot. And should a more conventional war break out, the A-10 would be at even greater disadvantage against a wider array of air defense systems.

So while I think retiring the A-10 would be a bad idea, I don’t think it is an indefensible one.

But I know I’m gonna need earplugs for the howls of outrage about to come.


Filed under Air Force, planes

Name that plane

No google. Ya either know it or you don’t.

And no, it’s not the Fairey Gannet



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TACAMO, ARES II, and some odds and ends


And of course, as soon as I put the camera away, a C-2 Greyhound in hi-viz markings came by.  :{


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Plane Pron Tuesday

Not the greatest quality pics, but it’s better than nothing.



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An Airshow

As I was waiting for the ferry to run me to Guemes Island yesterday, I struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger. He was from out of state,  and not familiar with life near a Navy town.

He said to me, “I thought the sequester pretty much grounded all the airshows. What’s the airshow going on just to the south?”

I explained that it was Naval Air Station Whidbey, and that it was just normal operations.

He was not convinced. He was certain it was a display put on for someone’s pleasure.

Nope. The free daily airshow is just a benefit of living near “The Sound of Freedom.”


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Planespotting-done poorly

So, no pics… at least, none of mine.

One of the things I’d hoped to do while here on Whidbey was get in a little planespotting. And I’ve done a fair bit. I’m right under the approach to RWY 25 at NAS Whidbey (KNUW), which is currently the only active runway. So everything comes right by here.  Of course, mostly it is the usual Prowlers, Growlers, and Orions. Which are all fun to watch.  But we’ve also seen a few other odds and ends, such as the local C-9 transport, a C-40B Clipper (the Navy version of the 737) and possibly a P-8, a 737 variant specializing in maritime patrol. We missed a great chance to get a pic of a C-17 transport. And of course, there’s always the local Search And Rescue (SAR) helo, an MH-60S Knighthawk. We’re used to seeing ‘hawks of various sorts from our time in the Army. So when I heard a helo this morning, I simply assumed it was the only assigned type, the Knighthawk. But it sounded a little odd. After about the third pass, I strolled out for a smoke, and was delighted to see it the reason it didn’t sound like a ‘hawk was because it wasn’t one at all. It was a Canadian CH-124 Sea King.  I was dismayed that I ‘d not brought a camera at all. Sorry.

File:CH-124 Sea King.jpg

Here’s a pic I missed a chance to take.

2011 was the Centennial of Naval Aviation, and one of the things the Navy did to celebrate was to paint various fleet aircraft in color schemes of days gone by. And of these schemes, one was a neat retro look of how the P-3 Orion was dressed when introduced into service in the early 1960s. I was pleased to see that it was, in fact, a local bird, and still clad in the attractive Midnight Blue upper, with white lower surfaces. Of course, I didn’t have a camera handy to take pics of it in the pattern. For that matter, I was busy driving, and couldn’t have gotten any pics without risking life and limb. I appreciate you, dear reader, but not enough to die for you just to get the picture.

Lockheed P-3C Orion aircraft picture

This is the bird, but obviously, not my pic.


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68 years ago, high above the city of Hiroshima, the crew of the 509th Composite Group B-29 Enola Gay, led by the Group Commander, 29 year old Colonel Paul Tibbets, unleashed a single bomb.

The devastation unleashed upon Hiroshima by this single blast was unprecedented in all of human history. Other cities, Tokyo in particular, had seen more damage, but never so instantaneously.

Three days later, a similar fate would befall Nagasaki. And 8 days later, Japan would sue for peace. The cataclysm of the 20th century, World War II, would come to a sudden halt. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, who knew in their bones that the invasion of Japan was just ahead, were suddenly free to consider that they might actually live, return home, and possibly even grow old.

Warfare would be forever changed. Every conflict since has seen the major powers strive to fight and win, and yet not so decisively that another major power would feel the need to resort to the ultimate in conflict resolution.



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The Aviationist Captured a Crash

I’m a big fan of airshows. I don’t think that will surprise anyone.

Having said that, I’m also a bit conflicted about them. Operating aircraft near the edge of their performance envelope, and doing so at low altitude, with the pressure to “put on a good show” tends to raise the accident rate to far higher than normal levels.

Five years ago, at an airshow in Italy, David Cenciotti, The Aviationist, caught an Italian NH90 helicopter in its last moments.

Head on over for the story, and the rest of the pictures.


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St. Elmo’s Fire isn’t just a Brat Pack movie


Stolen from one of the Lexicans off Facebook.


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FiFi Goes Flying

I’d sell URR’s spare kidney for a chance at a ride like this.

Mind you, when FiFi goes flying today, she’s taking off from nice long concrete runways, minus many tons of bombs and fuel. Makes it a touch easier than flying off of Tinian or Saipan.


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Name That Plane


Which, I know the basic type, but could actually use some help on the sub-type.

Pic courtesy of The Rebel Pin-up.


Filed under girls, guns, navy, planes, recruiting

A380 into SFO

A nice little video of an Airbus A380 flying into San Francisco. A nice little tour of the Bay Area.

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Name that Plane

I’ll say this, it’s not often I come across a plane from the post-war era that went into serial production for the Air Force that I don’t instantly recall.



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